It’s a cruel coincidence that the annual Jeremy Herbstritt Memorial 5K Walk/Run took place the day after the double explosions at the Boston Marathon.
Though race organizers had decided that proceeds from this year’s event would benefit victims’ families from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, many people’s thoughts were with a different New England community.
” The mood was certainly more somber than in previous years. A lot of runners were found hugging friends and crying, reflecting on the events of the Marathon,” explained one of the organizers of the event, Jen Herbstritt.
Normally the event includes a t-shirt for the participants but in order to maximize the donations they were giving to the families impacted by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, the organizers of the event decided to go “No shirt for Sandy Hook.” There was no shirt created for this year’s walk as there had been created previously.
Attendance for the event was greater than the organizers had seen in previous years, explained event organizer, Jennifer Herbstritt. She equated the increase in turnout to the bombings at the Boston Marathon. Many people who had attended or participated in the marathon on Monday were at Tuesday’s event sharing their stories and experiences.
The timing and alignment of the events is all too eerie for Herbstritt. “Innocent people are killed and injured running and watching a running event, the same event I was running when Jeremy was killed,” says Herbstritt.
Each year, a candle light vigil is held at the conclusion of the race with the goal of remembering victims of violence, to pause and reflect on how we can make this world a more peaceful place filled with compassion, understanding and empathy. It is also a chance to experience a touch of solidarity in the community when the events of the world are so sad and disturbing.
This year, the vigil focused not only on the memory of Jeremy, but also the victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy and all people affected by the events at Monday’s Boston Marathon.
“As Jeremy’s family, we know all too well how painful the months and years following such an unspeakable event can be. Just the smallest gestures and kind deeds helped us to find the courage to continue living life after Jeremy died,” explains Herbstritt.
The annual run was established following the Virginia Tech shootings on April 16, 2007. The run/walk is named for Jeremy Herbstritt, a 1998 Bellefonte Area High School graduate who was one of the victims from the Virginia Tech shootings. Herbstritt earned his undergraduate degree from Penn State in civil engineering, biochemistry and molecular biology. He went to Virginia Tech for civil engineering.
The fund, originally started by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering along with the Nittany Valley Running Club, was meant to honor Herbstritt while also raising money for a community track facility in his memory.
“My family and I would just like to thank the CE department for sponsoring Jeremy’s Race once again. It means a ton to us that six years later you all still remember Jeremy and help us to keep his spirit alive,” says Herbstritt.