When United States Army veteran Cory Smith decided to pick up an American flag and run with it three years ago on Sept. 11, he had no idea that only two years later he would be flanked by over 300 additional runners.
“Honestly, I can’t tell you exactly why I did it,” said Smith. “Nine-eleven just means a lot to me and I just did it for myself.”
Once Smith posted the event on Facebook and invited some friends the following year, however, the run quickly evolved from a one-man endeavor into a community event that attracted 200 fellow runners. The third year, that number increased by another 100 participants.
“I think it’s just cool that people are willing to join me on the run to celebrate all the lives lost on this day 14 years ago and the firefighters, policemen and service members—all those have lost their lives since this time of war,” said Smith.
The fourth annual 9-11 Red, White and Blue Run took place on Friday evening at Donnelly Park. As per tradition, runners donned red, white and blue and ran a route that covered approximately five miles throughout Turlock. There was also a shorter route available for those who needed it.
This year’s run was sponsored by Magnum Boots USA, and as a result, each participant on Friday received a 50 percent off coupon towards a new pair of boots. Two lucky participants with winning raffle tickets also won a pair of boots of their choice.
Smith also said that Save Mart Supermarkets donated water and ice to the event’s water station, which came in handy as he was really focused on keeping everybody hydrated in the heat this year.
“It’s just me doing this, so I’m trying my best to capitalize on it and make it better and more formal,” said Smith. “Next year, I plan on having shirts for people to buy. There are things that I am going to be integrating every year.”
There was no registration fee associated with the run, however, donations were collected for the Fisher House Foundation, which provides free or low cost lodging to veteran and military families receiving treatment at military medical centers, and Paws for Veterans, which provides Post Traumatic Stress Service Dogs for injured veterans at no cost.
While Smith said that last year he was able to raise almost $2,000 for veteran organizations, he did not have a set monetary goal for this year.
“I don’t see it like that. If I get a couple bucks, I get a couple bucks,” said Smith. “The main thing is just getting people together for this day to celebrate.”
Other Turlockers also participated in various activities and events in order to remember the tragedy that occurred 14 years ago on Sept. 11.
Employees from Save Mart Supermarkets’ Geer Road location thanked local first responders at Turlock Fire Station 3 on Friday morning by delivering water and food from their store, as well as a card signed by employees. This event was part of Save Mart Supermarkets’ annual tradition to show appreciation for all that first responders do for communities.
“On a day of remembrance like Sept. 11, it is extremely important that the community takes time to thank individuals who put their lives on the line for us,” said store manager Roy Torres. “Today was just a small thank you from us for what they do. They do a lot for our community.”
Covenant Village of Turlock residents gathered in their town square on Friday morning for a moment of silence and prayer, followed by a performance of "Amazing Grace" by bag piper Randy Francis. Assistant Executive Director Chuck Johnson lowered the American flag to half-mast and residents sang "God Bless America" for those who passed. Residents also held a readers theatre in the afternoon.
“Our residents are very patriotic and it was very important to them that they had an opportunity to recognize those who passed away on 9-11,” said residential activities coordinator Maggie Gianesin.
American flags throughout Turlock Unified School District were also flown at half-mast on Friday as students partook in various events to remember the tragedy of Sept. 11.
Pitman High School held a moment of silence on Friday morning, which was followed by a singing of the National Anthem by the school’s Madrigal group. Students also wore special spirit shirts and participated in another moment of silence later that night at the football game before the band played the National Anthem.
The Turlock High School Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps and the Bulldog cross country team participated in the fourth annual Red, White and Blue run at Donnelly Park.
Dennis Earl Elementary student Nicholas Mendes played the "Star Spangled Banner" on his trumpet on “Explore Vision” to start off the day for the whole school, while Cunningham Elementary School honored the fire department during the school’s morning opening and thanked them for their service.
Osborn Two-Way Immersion Academy students and staff remembered Sept. 11 by donning red, white and blue. Crowell Elementary School students and staff also dressed patriotically and held a brief moment of remembrance during their morning announcement.