Heroes Run Attracts More Than 150 Runners to Cranbury Park
The Hour story by Bob Birge, Hour Correspondent Hour Photo, Erik Trautmann
It was halfway between Storrs and Mincio's home in Holbrook, Long Island.
Mincio, who co-founded the Team Jesse Foundation with Corry in 2007, was back in Norwalk on Saturday to help coordinate the inaugural 9-11 Heroes Run that attracted more than 150 runners.
"I remember coming from the Oyster Festival," Mincio said. "Back then, I was 20, 21 years old. Who would have thought that 22 years later the entire town of Norwalk would still be here for me and help me fulfill a promise to a friend."
Following the 9-11 terror attacks, Mincio quit his job as a vice president at Goldman Sachs to join the army as a 31-year-old and met staff sergeant Jesse Williams, who was killed on April 8, 2007 during his second tour of duty in Iraq.
"I was definitely motivated by the events of Sept. 11," said Mincio, who relocated to Mercer Island, Wash., a Seattle suburb, after enlisting in the army. "I felt it was just a call of duty. I didn't think it was anything extraordinary.
"We come from a country of people that volunteer to fight for what they believe in and I believe in everything this country stands for. The country was attacked that day and I just wanted to do my part. I thought that's what you did when your country needed you."
Mincio made a promise in 2006 take care of Williams' infant daughter if the soldier didn't return from Iraq.
According to Mincio, it was Corry's idea, following Williams' death, to start the Team Jesse Foundation, which began as a summer lacrosse team, to help raise money for Williams' daughter (now 7) and fiance.
Mincio and Corry were happy with Saturday's turnout considering it was a new race. All proceeds will be split between the Team Jesse Foundation and the Travis Manion Foundation, which, according to Mincio, will conduct 47 9-11 Heroes Runs in various locations across the country this weekend and next.
UConn showed its support for the Team Jesse Foundation by sending three of its men's lacrosse captains to run in Saturday's race. A number of area high school lacrosse players also were on hand to serve as volunteers.
The overall winner was Justin Lubeley of Darien, 36, who posted a winning time of 18:54.27 for the 5K race. Lubeley ran in the Westport Road Runners Series this summer and won the 2.3-mile race in June.
"It's just a great day," Lubeley said. "It's a great cause to support. It's really nice to be out here running in the memory of those who gave their lives on 9-11 and after. I'm out here with my wife and three kids."
The top female finisher was Danielle Talisse, 37, of Norwalk, who posted a time of 22:22.40 that was good for ninth overall. Talisse described herself as a weekend runner who runs just for fun.
"It's just the memory of 9-11," Talisse said after being asked why she ran in Saturday's race. "I'm friends with the Corrys ... the camaraderie, just supporting the troops."
Saturday event's began with the playing of the national anthem and was followed by a moment of silence at 9:11 a.m. At the starting line, participants ran under a giant American flag that was hung from a Norwalk fire department truck. Norwalk state senator Bob Duff greeted the runners.
Rhett Vahos of Pelham, N.Y., was second (19:56.40) and was followed by Matt Smith, 29, of Fairfield (20:38.00).
"My friend, Marty Dunn of the Team Jesse Foundation, reached outto me," Smith said. "It was such a good cause, I couldn't say no to coming out and supporting everyone."
On the women's side, Lisa Pokorny-Couch of Fort Montgomery, N.Y., finished second (22:41.88) and Norwalk's Janet Welch placed third (23:04.76)
In June, Welch participated in the One Run For Boston transcontinental relay that raised money for the victims in the Boston Marathon bombings.
Mincio expects the Norwalk Heroes Run will grow in popularity and plans to return next year and many years to come.
"A lot of people think my story began on Sept. 11," he said. "I was just one of a million soldiers who have been deployed to a combat zone since Sept. 11. I think my story really starts with the promise between me and Jesse in 2006 in June when he asked me to look after his daughter if something happened to him. That was the foundation of this whole mission of fulfilling that promise."