Cross Challenge on 24 October 2021

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We Will Never Forget


Allan Steinfeld is the New York City Marathon Race Director. In this exclusive contribution for the real,- BERLIN-MARATHON website, he summarizes his thoughts and worries concerning the execution of his race after the tragic events of 9/11. Allan Steinfeld also visited the 28th real.- BERLIN-MARATHON and participated in the AIMS Board of Directors meeting in Berlin.

Right at the start of the 28th real,- BERLIN-MARATHON on 30 September 2001, he delivered a short address to the runners who were displaying over their heads a giant banner (40 m x 25 m – sponsored by the Bewag utility company) in remembrance of September 11. The banner had the logos of the New York City and Berlin marathons and the words „UNITED WE RUN“ inscribed.

Jointly with Klaus Wowereit, the Governing Mayor of Berlin, Mr. Steinfeld then fired the starting gun. Allan Steinfeld is seen on the left of the photo, which also depicts the Governing Mayor and Horst Milde, Race Director of the real,- BERLIN-MARATHON.

The banner was later taken to New York where it was initially displayed at the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, the start of the marathon, held high by 50 race directors from around the world, on 4 November 2001. Then it was spread on the ground for all to see on TV, encircled by the many buses that had brought the runners to the start.

The 2001 New York City Marathon 2001 – how Allan Steinfeld saw it

The morning of September 11 at 8:50 a.m., was sunny and warm much like many of the days we had preceding it. I was in a cab on the way to work, when all of a sudden I heard on the radio that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I was horrified, but thought that is was just a single or double engine propeller plane with a few people aboard. It wasn until I arrived at work and everyone was gathered around the TV set that I realized that this day was unlike any other day in our history and it would change us all forever. I remember we were all glued to the TV watching the horror unfold like a science fiction movie, but we knew it was unfortunately real.

New York City Allan Steinfeld, Klaus Wowereit, Horst Milde 2001

That afternoon I went for a run around the reservoir and looked south at the brown haze that was rising from the horrific fires and when the wind shifted I couldn help but inhale that acrid smoke. The days following were filled with despair and tears as the death toll rose and we heard more and more stories about families not knowing whether their loved ones were dead or alive.

We were supposed to have a charity run to raise funds to fight breast cancer with 30,000 women on Sunday September 16 in Central Park, but that got canceled due to security reasons. It was then that we started thinking about the marathon and realized that it could be cancelled too. I placed a call to the City to see if there was any word on the Marathon. Word can back a few days later saying, if there were no further attacks it was on. We breathed a collective sigh of relief.

However, that night we saw on that news that Pier 94, our expo headquarters, had been taken over by the office of emergency management to be a clearing house for people who believed they lost loves in the tragedy. People would bring pictures, donate DNA samples as well as bring blankets and clothing for survivors. We contacted the City and together we frantically searched for new venue not knowing whether the pier would be available by marathon time. We eventually found space at the Javits Center, our premier expo location. That was one hurdle we managed to get over without scraping our knees.

Our preparations for the race continued with some slight changes. At the end of September I was supposed to fly to Berlin for a meeting of AIMS. I was cautioned about flying by many people who said I shouldn go. I thought about it for a second and then responded: "How can we ask people from all over the world to fly to our marathon and support our city and our country, if I won fly myself?" The decision was simple. Hopefully, my being in Berlin would show the running world that the terrorists didn win and wouldn win.

The outpouring of support for New York in the Berlin Marathon was unbelievable I was especially moved by the giant banner with the Berlin and New York City Marathons logos and our slogan United We Run. That day in Berlin was inspirational and a day I will never forget. I came back to New York invigorated.

November 4, 2001 will be a day to remember in running history. It was a day that 2.5 million people came out to cheer on runners from around the world who journeyed to New York to show the world that terrorism could not Stopp or silence them. It was the first time that the collective city could allow their pent up emotions to express to the watching world who we really are, a brave and resilient people.

The United We Run banner was unfurled by race directors from around the world and displayed for the all the world to see. When America the Beautiful and the Star Spangled Banner was sung there wasn a dry eye on the Verrazano Bridge. Finally we released the "doves of peace", the cannon was fired and the miracle of the New York City Marathon began.

Allan Steinfeld
Race Director

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