The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 changed everything. One of the more ephemeral, yet serious, casualties of the attack was our country’s confident, unquestioning innocence. And ever since, we have struggled to come to terms with who we are as a people. In the process, we have waged wars, lost thousands of lives, watched entire business systems implode and sacrificed certain civil liberties.
10 years later, a generation of children has been born and raised in our new, more stricture-laden economic and cultural reality. It’s still hard to comprehend, and sometimes, it’s next to impossible to look bravely and hopefully toward the future in the wake of all of the turmoil and change the last decade has swept in.
Commemorating Sept. 11th every year has, too often, been more of a glad-handing photo op for politicians suffering from low approval ratings, rather than a genuine exercise in remembrance and devotion to the lives lost.
This year felt different. Memorials at the World Trade Center and in the surrounding communities were unveiled during solemn ceremonies. A half-triathlon in Croton Point Park, N.Y., was held. While the ceremonies and race were respectful and somber, there was an undeniable air of quiet jubilation and celebration, of what we as a nation have overcome and been through – and confidence in our ability to finally move on, without forgetting.
The half-triathlon in Croton-on-Hudson, officially called the Toughman 2011, kicked off at 6:45 a.m. at Croton Point Park. Mayor Leo Wiegman spoke, a marching band from Port Chester High School played the “Star Spangled Banner” and thousands of participants and race-watchers remembered quietly and hopefully, together.
The Toughman is comprised of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride and a 13.1-mile run. A celebratory BBQ and party was held on the grounds after the race for athletes and spectators.
The Toughman 2011 is on its fourth year in Croton, William DeKnatel, the race director and announcer, told Scarsdale Patch.
“We’ve grown from a race of 125 to more than 1,000 racers,” DeKnatel said. “The ceremony commemorating Sept. 11 was really touching and many of our participants chose to donate to Sept. 11th-related charities, but the Toughman is an equal opportunity event. Participants donate to a variety of charities.”
DeKnatel is also the Client Services Director for Cisco Systems, one of the major sponsors of the Toughman, (along with MorganStanley SmithBarney, Zoot, Jarden, Paragon and dozens of other smaller sponsors), donated its funds to Habitat for Humanity.
The charities aren’t the only beneficiaries of the event, however. “We estimate that the local economy sees about $1 million in additional economic activity from the race,” DeKnatel explained. “Community development is a big part of the Toughman. We are very conscious of the fact that local folks help us and let use their roads, paths and parks.”
Croton Point Park, at more than 500 acres of water and gently rolling hills peppered with wildflowers, was an idyllic setting for a triathlon, and the weather was ideally warm, with a touch of fall’s crispness in the air.
Scarsdale’s own Zachys Wine & Liquors was a sponsor of the event, with Andrew McMurray, one of Zachy’s buyers, racing himself.
“Andrew always dedicates himself 100 percent to everything he is involved in,” Barbara Strati, one of McMurray’s assistants, said. “Our original goal was to raise $20,000, but our customers and suppliers were so generous, we were able to raise about $40,000.”
All of the proceeds McMurray and Zachy’s drummed up will go directly in the coffers of those affected by 9/11. Their charity of choice is Families of Freedom, set up to help finance the secondary educations for children of people who died on Sept. 11, 2001.
By creating a solid foundation for those most affected by the darkest day in our nation’s history, Zachys may be helping us finally start our race toward a brighter future.