Sunday, April 29, 2007

Runners complete 5K in memory of shooting victim

The "Trail of Esperanza" 5K race on April 22 was dedicated to Jeremy Herbstritt.

The “Trail of Esperanza” 5K race on April 22 was dedicated to Jeremy Herbstritt, one of the 32 victims in the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech. Andrew Fagan, a junior at Virginia Tech, sits near Duck Pond wearing a sign on the back of his shirt with Jeremy Herbstritt’s picture.

Evelio Contreras | The Roanoke Times

The “Trail of Esperanza” 5K race on April 22 was dedicated to Jeremy Herbstritt, one of the 32 victims in the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech. Andrew Fagan, a junior at Virginia Tech, sits near Duck Pond wearing a sign on the back of his shirt with Jeremy Herbstritt’s picture.

How to give

  • Contributions to the United Way Memorial Fund for Jeremy Herbstritt can be made online at ccunitedway.org/index.html

Runners gathered early April 22 at Virginia Tech to begin a 5K race. But first, there was a moment of silence.

Tech students wearing orange T-shirts and shorts stood quietly in honor of Jeremy Herbstritt, one of the 32 people killed in the April 16 shootings on campus.

The race was sponsored by Project Esperanza, a Tech community service group that offers aid to the Dominican Republic and New River Valley.

Members of the group knew Herbstritt and about his passion for running. They decided to dedicate the race to him a day after the shootings.

"He was in love with running," said Caitlin McHale, who organized the race. "A lot of his friends showed up."

Herbstritt, 27, was pursuing a master's degree in civil engineering at Tech. A Penn State graduate, Herbstritt will have another 5K walk/run dedicated to him May 5 at University Park, Pa.

He was in Norris Hall working as a teaching assistant on the morning of the shootings.

"He was always happy and he definitely stood up for students," said Andrew Fagan, a junior at Virginia Tech who had a lab taught by Herbstritt. "Before we left class, he'd check everybody's work."

Andrea Fonseca, a graduate student and race coordinator, knew Herbstritt from classes. She talked to him on the Friday before the shootings. They talked about running.

"Jeremy was an avid runner," she said. "I [never] ran with him. I felt intimidated."

She helped monitor Sunday's race near Duck Pond.

In its second year, the "Trail of Esperanza" 5K race had 46 runners competing, about 20 fewer than last year.

Organizers anticipated a small turnout this year because of the shootings but did not want to cancel the event. McHale said people wanted to race.

The 3.1-mile course trailed west campus through Smithfield Plantation. There were two races for men and women.

Many runners wore a sign on their T-shirts that read: "I run for hope and in remembrance of Jeremy Herbstritt."

Near the starting line, a table held framed portraits of Herbstritt and a photo album. Runners wrote memorials on a white sheet of paper.

"Today we are running for you," Fonseca wrote. "God bless you."

Many runners and race organizers felt good about dedicating the race to Herbstritt.

"It's a good way for the community to come together and take some action," said Nathaniel Varano, a graduate student at Tech.

Junior Julie Karfakis said it was important to see people running, "by remembering Jeremy, but also having fun."

Some runners didn't know Herbstritt. But they thought about him as they ran the course across campus.

"You're running and you realize you're running for someone," said Holly Maroney, a junior at Tech. "Knowing that he was a runner it was a motivational and inspirational thought.

"I just wished he could run again."

Herbstritt's girlfriend wrote a poem that McHale read before the start of the women's race that morning:

"He had dark brown eyes and chocolate brown hair like the mud on his running shoes."

Weather Journal

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