About three or four years ago, Wanda Johnson and Alan Bannister were brainstorming a way to remember those lost on September 11, 2001. Wanda’s husband is the chief of the and Alan is a lieutenant on the force. LPD did not have officers who responded directly to Ground Zero and none of the officers knew someone personally who was involved in the tragedy. “But regardless, they’re still our brothers in blue,” said Chief Randy Johnson with his wife Wanda adding “and sisters.”
The Johnsons, along with Lt. Bannister and Lt. Phil Byers organized the "A Run To Remember" 5K. The first race was run on September 11, 2010. The group anticipated about 100 participants, but three times as many runners and walkers turned out to help raise $16,000. They’re expecting even more people and more money for the second running this year on September 10th.
While LPD did not send any officers up to Ground Zero to help in person, they did raise money to send to aid organizations. “I think we ended up collecting over $10,000 if I remember correctly,” said Chief Johnson. “You all collected money in the streets, didn’t you?” asked Wanda to her husband, which he confirmed.
This year the organizers have teamed up with Run & See Georgia Grand Prix Series. Runners in this group earn points per races across the state-- just like in the NASCAR series. By joining forces with Run & See Georgia the organizers hope to have at least 400 runners ready to race.
The race will begin and end at LPD’s headquarters. Before the race, participants and on-lookers will observe a moment of silence and an Honor Guard will present the flags. The runners will then line up underneath an enormous American flag draped between two fire engines to officially start the race.
“That’s a date that sticks in everybody’s mind,” said Chief Johnson when asked why they chose to hold a run in honor of the tragedy ten years ago. “Everybody thinks about it and everybody knows about it, so it was a way for us to remember what happened on September 11th. Have a run, but remember the people who lost their lives. Not only the civilians, but especially the police and firemen who lost their lives trying to save lives.”
Wanda Johnson said there would be activities for non-runners as well. Walkers are invited to take part in the 3.2 mile Fun Walk following the same route. Children as young as 10 can enter the race and baby strollers are welcome. There will also be a play area for the kids with a bounce-house and more. “There is planned to be a dunking booth which Randy has volunteered to be dunked,” said Mrs. Johnson. However Chief Johnson clarified the statement by saying he was volunteered. “By his wife,” she laughed. “It was one of those ‘Honey would you do this please?’ requests.” Assistant Fire Chief David Dusik has also agreed to be dunked for the cause.
The organizers note there will be rolling road closures during the race to allow the runners to safely cross the busy roads. Those closures will not last very long after the race’s 8:30am start time.
All of the money raised will be split between a scholarship at in remembrance of 9/11 and a fund to help injured officers. “We hope we never need to use the money,” said Chief Johnson about the fund for officers, “but if we do, we want to be able to help the employee that is injured.”
There is still time to register for the race or to sign up to be a sponsor. Visit www.lpd5k.com for more information. All participants will receive a t-shirt. There are also different categories including Top Firefighter/Top Officer and Most Patriotic—an award for the person who best displays their American pride through their outfit.