Runners pay tribute to firefighters, victims of 9/11

09/09/2013 12:00 AM

09/09/2013 6:30 AM

It was easy to pick out Jared Jeglie and Steven Lavenda from a crowd of runners near Capitol Mall on Sunday – they wore full firefighter gear, complete with oxygen tanks.

"We both felt this was a great way to run," said Jeglie, 22, of Sacramento, who works at Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District's Station 50. "If the 343 firefighters could carry extra equipment and go up all those stairs, this was easy to do."

Jeglie estimated that the gear weighed 50 pounds, since he and Lavenda were not wearing their boots, which would have added eight more pounds.

Jeglie and Lavenda were among the estimated 1,500 people who ran in the 9/11 Run to Remember 5K/10K and placed flags next to the names of victims at the Tribute in the Park on Capitol Mall afterward.

This was the third time the two firefighters had run in the event but the first time they donned their turnouts, or protective firefighting gear. "After Mile 3, forget it," said Jeglie, who wore the number 343 on his helmet – to commemorate the number of firefighters killed when the World Trade Center towers collapsed – while running the 10K.

Lavenda, 22, of Sacramento, is a firefighter with the Wilton Fire Protection District. He wore his own helmet, but added the number 2,977 – the number who died in the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001 – on his right sleeve, and 343 on his left.

The event, in its third year, raises money for a variety of charities, including the Sacramento Area Firefighters Widows and Orphans Fund and the Wounded Warrior Project.

"We wanted to honor the deaths of victims of 9/11 and remember the veterans who were in harm's way," said Tim Beard, a firefighter and paramedic with the Sacramento Metro Fire District who coordinated the event.

The names Sal Calabro and Robert Nagel are etched on a metal bracelet that Brian Lynch, 41, of Sacramento wears every day. He ran the 5K Sunday.

"I went to their funerals in New York 12 years ago," said Lynch, a captain with the Davis Fire Department. "I wanted to keep their memory alive. This is a personal thing. I met their families and friends."

Lynch has been participating in the run since 2010, and sought out Calabro and Nagel's names at the Tribute in the Park to place his flags.

Others who ran had other reasons. Charlene Jacquez, 34, of Oakley, brought her family – husband Troy, 35, daughter Haley, 14, and son Jake, 10. They were participating in the 5K run for the first time.

"I wanted to teach the kids what it symbolizes and to honor those who lost their lives," said Jacquez, a deputy with the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office.

"We can never forget what we went through that day."

Her husband had a different take on the event.

"It's a way to give back to people who had the loss, to give support," he said. "It's a great atmosphere – positive all around."

Sarah Carbajal, 30, of Citrus Heights and Pamela Little, 32, of Lincoln ran the 5K in memory of their uncle, William Porter, a firefighter at Station 6 with the Sacramento Fire Department. He died last May from a non-work-related accident. Both wore T-shirts with logos from his station and orange ribbons.

"The opening ceremony was very meaningful," Little said. "These were the same men who went to our uncle's funeral."

The sisters were given two flags each for the tribute. Carbajal sought out 9/11 victims whose first names were William and Sarah – the name of her uncle and aunt – while Little looked for the names of William and Thomas, the latter representing her cousin, Thomas Porter, who is also a firefighter.

Natalee Pecorelli of Sacramento, who described herself as 50-plus, didn't participate in the run. Dressed in black, she came to place a flag next to her brother's name at the Tribute in the Park.

Tom Pecorelli, 30, of Los Angeles, was on American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. He worked for what was then Fox Sports Net in Los Angeles and was flying home from Boston.

"It's the first time in 12 years for me to do this," she said. "It's still pretty hard."

Pecorelli said she was glad that the Tribute in the Park included names of all the victims, and not just of the firefighters.

She was prompted to come after seeing her nephew, Nicolas Pecorelli, turn 11.

"He was born after 9/11, and I saw how big he's grown and how much time has passed and I had to acknowledge this," she said. "It was time to do it."

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