Guest OpEd: Sarah Millwee, Dallas 9/11 Heroes Run Participant
Word count: 867
4 Minute Read
On September 11, 2001, I was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed 25-year-old from Texas living the life in New York City. That day and the days and weeks to follow changed my life forever. I will never forget the moment it happened, but more importantly, everything that happened after. The way the city and the country came together in a split second. The selflessness and heroic efforts of the first responders as well as all of the responders who came and stayed for weeks and weeks to at first try to rescue and later to clean up.
On the morning of September 12, I went down to see how I could help. As I walked towards Ground Zero, I passed droves of New Yorkers carrying food and drinks to donate for those hurt and those helping. Along the West Side Highway, people lined the street cheering on the first responders as they came for what we thought at the time was a recovery effort to try to save as many lives as they could. Fireman, police and other first responders came from all around to help. The West Side Highway was lined with buses and trucks of the first responders waiting in line to get into Ground Zero to help in any way they could. The busloads of responders started early in the morning and continued until far after dark; I don’t even remember when, or if, it did end that night.
I went as close to Ground Zero as I could get to find out how I could help, a man who told me to go buy candy bars to hand to the responders as they went in. I went and bought all the candy bars from a nearby deli and spent the rest of the day and night hopping on every vehicle to greet and thank the first responders before they drove into what was truly a war zone. These men and women sacrificed their lives and health to help. It was a true gift to look into their eyes, thank them, encourage them and hug them as they went in. It changed my life but I know it changed theirs more as these are the men and women now fighting for their own health from the damage of working at Ground Zero.
While I wish none of it had ever happened, I am grateful to more closely understand and admire the sacrifices that all of our servicemen and first responders make. When we run away, they run in. And despite the challenges they face after and regardless of how they are taken care of, they continue to go in and for that, my family and I are eternally grateful.
We are coming up on 20 years since the events of September 11th, 2001. Kids in high school were not even born yet, and are now learning about the tragic event through history books. This makes it even more important to continue to remember and honor those who sacrificed on 9/11 and those who continue to make sacrifices daily to protect our freedoms. It is hard to truly understand and respect our freedom when freedom is all you’ve ever known. Educating our country and our children to understand and respect those who sacrifice in so many ways to protect this freedom on our behalf is so important to me and my family. Having events like Travis Manion Foundation’s 9/11 Heroes Run gives us such a special opportunity to do so.
The 9/11 Heroes Run represents a way to honor those who sacrifice for our freedoms. A chance to truly pause, reflect, and remember the heroes of 9/11 as well as those who’ve sacrificed at home and abroad in the wars since. One of these heroes is my younger brother Daniel, who chose to join the Army while in the college at Texas A&M University. I have seen some of the sacrifices he made to serve our country, and I swell with pride. I am truly humbled when I think of the sacrifices that he and other young men and women make to serve - they give up all the comforts and luxuries that we have at home to do things that most of us know so little about. I will never know or understand what it’s like to be that kind of hero but I do want to make sure I never take their service for granted and honor them whenever I have the chance.
Attending the 9/11 Heroes Run will give me a more meaningful way to remember 9/11 this year, and I am excited to share this part of me with my husband and kids. I have two young children, and it is important to me that they grow up honoring and respecting our heroes. I look forward to this being one of the first ways I can share and teach my kids about this monumental moment in history. We are a running family so to combine our love of running with something so dear to my heart is pretty special. I look forward to the 9/11 Heroes Run being an annual tradition in our family for many years to come, and I invite you to make this a tradition for your family as well.