Woman runs marathons to remember her uncle who died on 9/11

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running for 9/11

A Southwest Florida woman runs marathons to remember her uncle who died on 9/11.

Staten Island is barely 60 square miles but the strength of the people who live there became apparent on September 11, 2001. 274 residents of the island lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks. Now more than 20 years later, those families continue to heal.

Tracy Incardone lives in Southwest Florida now but she is a Staten Island woman born and bred.

“9/11 took almost 300 people from the whole island. We lost a whole fire house,” says Incardone.

For her, the morning of September 11 was a whirlwind. Once word of the attacks spread, Incardone drove straight to her mother’s home.

“She came out the front door and she said ‘We can’t find Uncle Tom.’ My uncle Tom worked in midtown Manhattan so he wasn’t supposed to be there. He worked at Marshall McClennan and he had a meeting in Tower One. He took the ferry into work, kissed his wife goodbye and that was it. We haven’t found anything,” says Incardone.

For weeks, Incardone along with thousands of other families scoured the city looking for their loved ones.

“Putting pictures up have you seen him? Nobody could find anybody and when we realized Tom was gone, I thought ‘Oh boy I’m going to have to run,” said Incardone.

Tom Celic was a 2:30 marathon runner, a phenomenal time for any runner to achieve. Tom created “The Celic Run” after his brother Marty Celic, an NYFD firefighter who died fighting an arson fire in lower Manhattan in 1977. The Marty Celic Run became the Celic Brothers Run.

Incardone’s own two brothers are both runners who found their passion through their Uncle Tom. Incardone says she passed out water and helped with the organization but did not consider herself a runner.

“I don’t run. I don’t run. I hate running. It was like punishment, right? Like if you are late, you run laps. that’s what running is,” said Incardone.”That fall of September 11th I started training, well training? I ran like 10 mins then 15 then 20 and then for 30 I didn’t know what I was doing.”

But she is still doing it running 5 marathons so far, a handful of triathlons, and countless 5ks. She wakes up every weekday at 5 a.m. to run before she takes her kids to school and heads to work at Florida Gulf Coast University.

“My first half marathon I thought, oh, I’m a runner. This is what I do now,” said Incardone.

For years, the date September 11 has been a difficult one for Incardone and her family. They no longer watch the news coverage or relive the events of that day. The painful recollection of Uncle Tom never making the ferry back to Staten Island will be a scar she carries for the rest of her life.

“You hear these stories ‘Oh I was supposed to be there but my alarm didn’t go off. Somebody was looking out for me’ or ‘I was supposed to be there but my wife was sick or my kid was sick, somebody was looking out for me and that to me is just not a fair statement. That means that 250 people from Staten Island didn’t have anybody looking out for them and I don’t think that’s true. Quite frankly a lot of people that we lost on Staten Island were cops and firemen who were doing heroic things that day. And they were looking out for someone else,” says Incardone.

“My husband is retired NYPD and when him and a bunch of my cousins had gone into the fire academy right after 9/11 they were told ‘If you are not willing to do what those men and women did that day then you can leave. They stayed,” said Incardone.

Now every September Incardone remembers her Uncle Tom. She remembers the red durag he wore religiously with his broken in tank top while running. She remembers him dancing with his wife and laughing. And she keeps running.

“There is a lot of heroic things that came out of that day and I think that’s what you kind of need to grab onto you,” said Incardone. “Now I run. Now I’m a runner.”

In the three 9/11 attacks in New York, Shanksville and at the Pentagon nearly 3,000 people died.

This Saturday the Tunnels to Towers 5k run and walk honoring first responders of 9/11 will take place at Florida Southwestern State College at 8:45 am. Tracy Incardone will run the race.

If you would like to participate, click on the link.

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