Honoring our nation’s first responders and remembering the fallen every September 11th is a tradition that many proud Americans partake in across the country.
This includes the founder and president of 9/11 Promise nonprofit, Jen Depoto. She is devoted to her work of paying tribute to our nation’s heroes.
The organization’s 9/11 Promise Run is an annual three-day relay race founded in 2016 — and it challenges participating teams to run 240 miles from the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial to Ground Zero.
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The 2022 race began in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Sept. 9, at 5 a.m. EST.
Runners are expected to cross the finish line in downtown Manhattan on Sunday, Sept. 11, by 6:30 p.m.
The organization began a simultaneous 9/11 Promise Bike Race in 2019, which covers the 200-mile stretch from D.C. to the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
In a phone interview with Fox News Digital, Depoto of Wilmington, N.C., revealed that every participant takes away something a little different from the race, which offers “a lot of healing.”
“Some people are just trying to serve their country in their own kind of way, give back,” she said.
“Some are out there running because they’re just trying to resolve something that they’ve endured.”
“Being out there when you’re on the road, and you’re running with the flag, and you’re kind of all suffering together, there’s a lot of healing that happens — and there’s a lot of God moments,” she said.
“I think God is all over this.”
Depoto explained that each team of varying sizes follows alongside its runners in a van or RV, with various members jumping out to swap places with fellow teammates along the way.
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There is no dictating how many miles each person runs because “it isn’t about that,” said Depoto.
“It’s not a race at all,” she said.
“It’s really about taking the time, being with each other, serving each other, loving each other, supporting each other and remembering why we’re doing this.”
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“I don’t care who gets to the firehouse first — it’s not about that.”
Although the runners come from different backgrounds, Depoto considered it “really beautiful” that everyone is running for the same reason — which is the kind of unity that should be practiced across the nation, she suggested.
“It’s events like this that need to happen, that need to be seen, so we have a chance of kind of uniting again,” she said.
Firehouses long the route “fully support” both events, Depoto said.
They serve as water and food stops for racers.
“And as the event has continued and grown, the firehouses have gotten more and more involved, where they almost compete with each other to see who can be the best water stop, who can provide the best meal,” she said.
“It’s really been fantastic and a number of them have also gotten teams together.”
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The 9/11 Promise nonprofit provides educational scholarships to children of fallen or injured first responders or military service members.
All athletes participating in both races commit to raising $1,000 each — and 100% of all proceeds go toward these scholarships.
As this year’s race follows up the 20th anniversary of 9/11 last year, Depoto commented that she’s “stoked” the nation is still coming out to remember what happened in Sept. 2001.
“I feel like our mission of carrying this forward and really showing that we’re just trying to take care of all the kids of fallen and injured first responders and the military is awesome,” she said.
The 9/11 Promise nonprofit continues to include military personnel in the annual event by inviting guest military speakers to athlete meetings ahead of the race, as well as inviting them to run.
“And for a number of veterans who have suffered from PTSD, I think the event and the speakers have just moved mountains in their lives,” she said.
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“Whether it’s fire, whether it’s police, whether it’s military, they just take an oath, and they’re willing to do whatever in the face of danger,” she said.
“And now it’s our opportunity to say thank you.”