When I go for a run, I often pass by the memorial you can see in the picture here. It’s for a girl who was hit by a car in 1996. She was 12 when she died. About a year ago, I Googled the girl’s name. Alycia was hit by a driver who ran a red light. She died on the spot. Her friend of the same age was severely injured, but he lived. They were on the way back from doing homework at a friend’s house.
Apparently the driver did some prison time, but was eventually released. I read the testimonies of the friends who were with her that night and the expressions of pain of her parents. I still remember I had a hard time falling asleep that night.
Now, every time I run by her memorial, on the sidewalk at the intersection where she was run over, I salute Alycia. I think of her parents and her friend. I think of my kids. I think about life.
When I run by her memorial I become aware of my feet hitting the ground and, even if I’m tired, even if it’s sweltering hot, I feel good. I’m alive, my kids are healthy and my loved ones are fine. I hope this lasts, but you just never know, and she reminds me of that. We have to squeeze the juice out of life while we can.
Read Related: After Sandy Hook We Must All Look in the Mirror
During the rest of my run, I make a mental gratitude list. And even if I feel like slowing down or walking, I don’t. I keep on running because Alycia can’t. In her honor, I enjoy every minute of my journey. She’s my reality check.
I also run in honor of the people who have died before me—my stepmother’s younger brother, with whom I shared a birthday. He died of cancer a few years ago, leaving behind three young girls and a widow. I run for a colleague who died of a stroke at 50; I run for friends who are in wheelchairs. And today, after I finish this post, I will leash up my dog and we’ll run for those who were killed or injured in the Boston Marathon bombings. We’ll run for the youngest victim, little Martin Richard, an 8-year-old boy who was there to watch his father finish the marathon. We’ll run for his mother and 6-year-old sister, who were both seriously injured. We’ll run for the the deceased, their families, and the scores of other victims whose lives changed in the blink of an eye.
Acts of terror are meant to scare, hurt and maim not only people, but society. As sick as that is, the only way to counteract evil is to do good. Look at the courageous rescuers; find the stories of humanity. Mourn the dead and if you are a runner…keep on running. Run for those who can’t. And run in defiance of those cowards who attempt—and fail, again and again—to make us all run in fear.