This past Saturday marked the eighth running of the I Did The Grid road race and my sixth time making the trek to East Northport, NY from my home outside of Boston to run it. Those of you who know me (or know this blog) probably know of the race and my affiliation with Team Chris. But for those of you who don’t, some background.
The Grid was started by the family of CPL Christopher G Scherer, USMC, who was killed in action in Iraq on July 21, 2007. It runs through the streets of the tightly knit neighborhood of East Northport, NY known as The Grid — the same streets that Chris roamed (or ravaged, if you believe the folklore) as a child. But it is more than a local race honoring a local fallen hero.
In this race there is no prize money. There is no prestige in winning.
Each runner is encouraged to run to remember and honor the fallen. Each race bib carries the names of soldiers killed in our country’s wars, most recently in the war on terror. This year there were five names on each bib (over 5000 names total). It is a race like no other and a Memorial Day tribute like no other.
To truly understand the impact of the I Did The Grid road race you have to experience it first hand. You have to see members of the United States Marines run with school children. You have to read the stories of local servicemen who made the ultimate sacrifice. You have to hear the bell ring for “Final Call.” You have to personally meet a Gold Star Family and thank them for their sacrifice.
This year I ran the race with my camera. Here are a few images and the stories behind them.
Final InstructionsThe race is divided into three events: a 4 mile competitive race; a one mile Kid’s run (which featured 90 Marines running in cadence leading the kids); and a 4 mile run/walk.
Here, Tim Scherer gives instructions to the runners before the competitive race.
FlagsThe meaning of of the race being what it is, it is no surprise that the race is embraced by veterans’ groups. Here is one, proudly displaying The Colors as they approach the finish line.
Patriot GuardMembers of the Patriot Guard attend The Grid every year to pay their respect, lining the start and finish line bearing the flag. If you are not familiar with the work of the Patriot Guard you should Google them.
Water StopThe Grid is run on a 4-mile course that winds through about a half mile square neighborhood. The neighborhood is shut down for about half a day. And they embrace the race. The support is fantastic. Most houses are decorated in support of the race, the Holiday and the Marines. And a few neighbors, like these folks, provide additional support to runners.
The BellRunners are asked to remember those they run for by ringing the “Last Call” bell at the finish line. It is a precursor to the Gold Star Ceremony that follows the race. While the true meaning of the gesture may be lost on some of the young kids running the race, it is not lost on the 90 Marines who ran the kids through the one mile run. You can see it in their eyes.
Honor GuardHere is the bell, backed by a USMC Honor Guard, is in place for the Gold Star Ceremony.
Gold Star CeremonyThe meaning of Memorial Day crystalizes during the Gold Star Ceremony where the sacrifice of area soldiers is honored with a ceremonial “Last Call” and the presentation of a single red rose to Gold Star Family members.
The Gold Star Ceremony is a roll call for the fallen. A soldier’s name is called three times, waiting for a response:
CPL Scherer (no response)
CPL Christopher Scherer (no response)
CPL Christopher G Scherer (no response)
Here, a representative of a Gold Star Family rings the bell for the fallen family member.
Paying RespectAlong the finish line was a series of about a dozen tribute banners, each with a photograph and story of soldier who was killed in action in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I made a point to read them all. When I got to the banner that told the story of James D. McNaughton I saw this little girl reading his story intently — She gets it.
The TreeAfter the race and after the Gold Star Ceremony, the members of the Scherer family and a couple dozen close friends stay behind to honor the sacrifice of CPL Christopher G Scherer, their son, brother, nephew, cousin, friend.
A tree in front of the Pulaski School, planted in Chris’ honor, is ringed with roses. A wreath is placed. Bagpipes play. A song is sung.
Janet and Tim SchererAfter the crowds go home, the Scherers host a post race barbecue. It is a chance for race organizers, volunteers, friends and family — Team Chris — to unwind, relax and reflect. And it gave me a chance to finally corner Janet and Tim Scherer for this portrait.
When they founded Team Chris, I doubt the Scherers anticipated the impact it would have on those around them. Born out of grief, it is an organization we would prefer never existed. But those of us who are part of it can’t imagine our lives without Team Chris. It is more than a charity. It is a family.
To Tim and Janet and the entire Scherer family, thank you for your sacrifice.
Thank you for visiting today.
Nice work once again Bob. Your photographs tell a story and make them very meaningful. Hope all is well. Will be shooting in Ireland for a couple of weeks. Want to pick your brain on micro 3/4 camera for travel. Have a great one.
I have heard of this race but I guess I didn’t do it because I didn’t get it. Based on your photos and description I think I understand how a run can honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. I will make it a point starting next year to run this race each Memorial Day weekend as my way of honoring those who gave all. Thank you.
Boston “No Bib” Bob, you just made me cry! What a wonderful tribute. Through this tragedy and sadness, we have all been fortunate to meet each other and be part of Team Chris! So very well stated! A touching tribute! Thank you!
My family and I ran the race for the second year. What an amazing day and you genuinely captured the day. We will be there to honor the fallen and pay our respects to the Scherer family’s sacrifice for years to come.
As always, you have captured the essence of this event so well with photos and descriptions. I was honored to be more involved this year and plan to continue to help in years to come in any way that I can! Great to see you there and see you again soon!
Great post Bob, awesome work on the photos