Garden of Reflection 5K expects an extra emotional day

This Sunday’s Garden of Reflection 5K figures to draw a large field commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. (Photo by David Willard)
      There are always tears on a particular day in mid-September but come this weekend things might get even more emotional.
      It’s the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, an American tragedy which left their mark on Bucks County.
      On Sunday, hundreds of runners will gather in Newtown for the Garden of Reflection 5K, a race which generates funds to maintain the memorial.
      Those in attendance will once again honor the memory of 18 Bucks County residents, along with that of thousands of others, who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001 – the day hijacked jetliners were flown into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a failed fourth flight which crashed in western Pennsylvania.
      It’s an opportunity for people to gather and say prayers for the lives lost.
      Perhaps unspoken is the idea that we must never forget what happened and always acknowledge the strength of the surviving family members from that dark day in American history.
      Race director David Willard indicates the project is both worthwhile and meaningful, especially in 2021.
      “For me, it’s hard to fathom that it’s been 20 years,’’ Willard said in a recent telephone conversation. “And I think it’s critically important at this juncture for people to remember and keep the focus on it. There’s a whole generation that wasn’t around. I really feel like there’s a sense of loss of the meaning and the impact. . .I feel this is a time of rebuilding and reflection on that significance of how it impacted individuals’ families and our community in particular.’’
      The mission statement of the 5K is to raise enough funding to ensure the Garden of Reflection will be maintained in perpetuity.
      “We’re really close,’’ Willard said. “The 5K, the golf outing and the contributions people are making are getting us really close. The business community has really stepped up this year. It’s really encouraging to see.’’
      For those old enough to remember what took place 20 years ago, it was one of those moments indelibly etched in their memories. In generations past, it was Pearl Harbor Day (1941) and the Kennedy assassination (1963). Everybody recalls where they were when they heard the news.
      “You remember where you were and being glued to the TV screen,’’ Willard said. “You reflect back on how this touched the lives of people in our community, families and friends in our community who lost someone. . .20 years later, it still has that impact on their lives. For all of us to remember, reflect, honor and support their families at this time. . .whenever there’s a major milestone relecting back, it opens up those wounds again for people and their families.’’
      The consequences of that day 20 years ago are long lasting.
      “There are children without fathers or mothers,’’ Willard said. “I really think it’s time for us to support them as well as remember how it will impact us in the future.’’
      Unlike many races which took a sabbatical last year due to the pandemic, the Garden of Reflection 5K pushed ahead and held the race, albeit with strict safety measures.
      Some of those measures will be still in place this year but no doubt things are loosening up a bit.
      “Last year we had a lot of restrictions but it was exciting because we were one of only a few races to go on in the whole area,’’ said Willard, 62, who resides in Yardley. “We thought it was important to keep it going. This year will be definitely more relaxed. It will be optional if people wish to wear a mask, but it’s all outside. Science is showing that (mask-wearing) is not as critical in these environments.’’
      Because it’s the 20th commemoration of 9/11, Willard expects a big turnout. Registration is still available at  And walk-up registration is open the morning of the race.
      Willard joined former race director Greg Tarallo’s staff about eight years ago and took over the project in the past couple years.
      This Sunday figures to be an emotional day at the Garden of Reflection and a time for the healing process to continue.
      Race calendar
      53rd annual Mill Street Run, 8 a.m., Bristol Contact
      9/11 Heroes Run 5K, 9 a.m., Feasterville. Contact www.9/
      Garden of Reflection 5K, 9 a.m., Woodside Road, Newtown. Contact
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About Wayne Fish 2446 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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