Saturday was the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that rocked America.
Oneida’s Trinity Smith spent the anniversary as he has spent every Sept. 11 since 2003: running.
What began as an impromptu tribute to the victims of 9/11 on the streets of a small town more than 700 miles from Lower Manhattan has grown to become a community event. In 2003, Smith — a longtime running enthusiast who doesn’t run in organized events such as marathons so much as he runs for local charitable causes — ran solo, carrying an American flag up and down Alberta Street through Oneida. Most years since then he’s been joined by friends who like to run. And, in recent years, he has spent the day in full firefighter turnout gear, as a way to pay tribute to the more than 300 New York firefighters who perished that day as they rushed up the stairs of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center before those buildings collapsed.
From 7:30 a.m. until after 8 p.m., Smith ran. He might not have ran continuously, but he ran repeatedly.
Every year that he runs, Smith carries the burden of the more than 3,000 people who died on Sept. 11. This year, he carried an additional burden. Just before he began his first lap shortly after sunrise Saturday morning, Smith learned that his grandmother, Mona, had died at the age of 90.
But he ran anyway. And by the end of the hot September day, Smith had completed 22 miles in full turnout gear. His friends pitched in to help complete a total of 267 miles. And, as has become tradition, the day ended with the Four Lane section of Alberta Street being closed for a first responders parade from the north end of town to the Bethlehem Baptist Church parking lot at the bottom end of the Four Lane, which serves as the staging area for the memorial run each year.
As has been the case for the past several years, Smith was almost too exhausted to finish the run, pushing himself almost to the point of collapse. But, as has been the case each year, he did finish. And after being checked out by paramedics at the finish line, he was fine.
Smith said Sunday that this will be the last year he pushes himself as hard as he did this year. “My body can’t handle it,” he said. But he pledged to continue to be a part of the memorial run each year.