Marcos Bretón

Marcos Breton: Peace is the message at 9/11 event

Marcos Breton
Marcos Breton

I'll be running a 10K in downtown Sacramento today – a community gathering to commemorate the victims of 9/11. Participating in this race is part of a personal quest for fitness, one in which I've lost more than 70 pounds in 2 1/2 years of eating properly and exercising regularly.

But running in this event is about more than just physical fitness. Amid the never-ending drumbeats of war, it will feel comforting to be one person in a massive group of people communing in peace.

At 9:11 a.m., we'll start at Capitol Mall and then run parallel to the Sacramento River before reaching Broadway and turning back to eventually cross the Tower Bridge into West Sacramento. We'll then run the River Walk Promenade, cross the I Street Bridge back into Sacramento, run up Jibboom Street, turn back on the American River bike trail, pass Old Sacramento and return to Capitol Mall via downtown streets.

At the finish line, we'll each receive an American flag meant to represent a person killed in the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

We'll place our flags – thousands in all – in a memorial on Capitol Mall.

If you've never been to one of the many races organized by Sacramento's vibrant running community, this is one to experience.

In truth, many of these events represent the best of Sacramento – of community, vitality, and shared experiences with friends, family and total strangers.

This event is called the "Run to Remember." But how could we forget?

We're just a few days from the 12th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. Those victims we honor today were only the first in a perpetual war that begat more killing, more terrorism, more surveillance, more erosion of privacy rights, more cyberattacks, more "leakers," "hackers," suicide bombers, refugees and war dead than any of us could have imagined 12 years ago.

It never ends. "Mission Accomplished" is forever a punch line.

Our current president presided over the killing of Osama bin Laden, but the killing goes on. Our previous president presided over the toppling of Saddam Hussein, but the killing goes on.

I remember feeling exhilaration when those despots were hunted down, just as I remember feeling rage and wanting vengeance in the days after 9/11. I was 38 then and still had a thick head of hair with nary a gray root.

Six days after 9/11/01, I participated in a 7-mile run in Sacramento where we solemnly observed a moment of silence for the 9/11 victims – as we will again today.

Like everyone I knew, my emotions were raw that morning of Sept. 16, 2001. Bodies were still being pulled from the remains of the World Trade Center. Families of the disappeared were just starting to realize that their loved ones were never coming back. We had no answer for a haunting question:

What happens now?

Twelve years later, we know the answer. We rue the answer.

I'm 50 now, and my hair is thinning and graying. I don't feel rage or exhilaration in relation to war anymore because we're stuck in that feeling of wondering when the killing will end or where it will lead.

As we toe the start line for today's run, we do so knowing the president will address the nation Tuesday to make the case for military strikes in Syria.

I voted for Barack Obama twice, but I'm not with him now. It's never about one military strike. One strike always leads to a despot thumbing his nose at America. That would surely prompt another strike, a response, more killing, more terrorism, and more surveillance – more of everything we've come to dread in the last 12 years of perpetual war.

No one I know is suggesting that nothing be done in the face of chemical weapons used on innocent civilians by Syrian President Bashar Assad.

But a military strike inspires little confidence as an effective response or a strategy. The past 12 years have taught us that military strikes never lead anywhere good.

Pope Francis urged world leaders this week to "lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution." Twelve years ago, I would have thought such a statement was naive and pointless. Not anymore. The world has the moral ability to isolate despots like Assad and those who conspire with him. Military solutions are futile.

When I lay my American flag beside the name of a 9/11 victim after today's race, it will be with the feeling that peace is the greatest tribute we could erect to honor those we've lost to terrorism.

For a moment, at the end of today's race, it will feel good to stand among fellow residents in the heart of our city as we remember the past 12 years – and as we hope for a blessed day in our future when we move on from them in peace.

Call The Bee's Marcos Breton, (916) 321-1096.