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Blue Earth plans big 9/11 event

Will include 9.11 kilometer bike ride, run, guest speakers, more

By Fiona Edberg - Staff Writer | Sep 5, 2021

When asked, most adults can tell you precisely where they were and what they were doing on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

It was her clear memory of this day that inspired Mandy Fletcher to create an event memorializing the tragedy for the Blue Earth community.

“For me personally, growing up I had always heard about the event that impacted my parents when they were growing up — when JFK was shot,” explains Fletcher. “9/11 is that way for me. I tell my kids about it in the same way.”

Fletcher continues, “I can remember everything about that day — where I was when I found out, conversations I had. Every year, when Sept. 11 comes around, I am just glued to the TV watching documentaries and remembering that day.”

Fletcher discovered a unique idea for paying tribute to those impacted by the event, and the terrorist attack’s vivid impact moved her to action.

“A few years ago, on social media, I saw this woman had created a 9.11 kilometer bike ride in memory of 9/11,” remembers Fletcher. “I thought that would be really cool to do in our community.”

Fletcher waited a few years before enacting the plan in Blue Earth. However, she feels this fall is the right time to debut the bike ride.

“In the spring, I noticed that Sept. 11 actually falls on Saturday,” says Fletcher, “and I thought, we can do it this year.”

The event is coming together. In memoriam of the lives lost 20 years ago, on Sept. 11 this fall, the 9/11 Memorial Bike Ride/5K Run will commence at the Faribault County Fairgrounds.

Check-in for the event will begin at 9 a.m., followed by an introduction at 9:15 a.m.

The 9.11 kilometer bike ride, which will begin at the Faribault County Fairgrounds, is slated to start at 9:46 a.m.

Fletcher explains the specific start time coincides with the time the first tower was hit.

The 5K run, which will also begin at the fairgrounds, will start at 10:03 a.m., which is when the second tower was struck.

Two guest speakers are scheduled to speak when the bike ride and run are completed, around 11-11:30 a.m.

The guest speakers were suggested by County Veterans Service Officer Jenna Schmidtke, who has worked closely with Fletcher to coordinate the event.

“Jenna is so passionate about helping veterans,” says Fletcher. “She was acquainted with both of them (the speakers). She’s done such a fantastic job of organizing the event.”

One of the selected speakers is Jack Zimmerman, a veteran who currently serves as a mentor to other veterans.

“He was in my brigade, so that’s how I got to know him,” explains Schmidtke. “We both worked with veterans in the Fifth Judicial District Veterans Court.”

Schmidtke adds, “He’s very involved in many different support groups for veterans. He’s a great speaker.”

Bob Toland, former police chief of Winnebago and former member of the military police in the U.S. Army, will also speak at the event.

“During the time of 9/11, he (Toland) was the local emergency management director,” shares Schmidtke. “He worked with the emergency management director for Goodhue County to prepare and prep for evacuees to be brought here from the area of Grey Island (Grey Cloud Island Township).”

Schmidtke continues, “He’s an ongoing and diligent service member to our country, and our community as well.”

While Schmidtke has been instrumental in helping with preparations for the event, Fletcher has received support from other individuals and organizations as well.

Dave Kittleson, who Fletcher shares is “such an active person in the biking community,” has organized the biking portion of the event.

Fletcher has also been working with the Easton Legion Post 569.

“Chelsea Sonneck (Post 569’s adjutant) thought it would be great to partner for the event,” explains Fletcher.

Fletcher says the Legion will be serving a pork meal and will be encouraging free-will offerings from attendees.

“The proceeds from there go to local first responders,” says Fletcher.

Finally, Fletcher has partnered with the Active Living Coalition to book its Bike Trailer for the event.

“It comes with 20 bikes,” shares Fletcher. “People can request one at any time, at no cost to them.” Fletcher hopes this will enable participation for community members who do not have a bike.

Fletcher wants to generate healthy community interest in the event.

“We are trying to utilize all different channels to tell people about this,” she explains. The event has been advertised in the Faribault County Register, on the local KBEW radio station, and on social media.

“We hope we can garner at least a little interest and make it an annual thing,” Fletcher adds.

Fletcher does indeed hope the event will be repeated for years to come. “If it’s bound to be successful, and there’s interest, then why not?” she reasons.

The 9/11 Memorial Bike Ride/5K Run is still accepting participants. Those who are interested can register online by visiting beaschools.org, and then clicking on the Community Education tab, followed by the Community Ed tab.

Community members who wish to register in-person can also drop off the paperwork at the Faribault County Veterans Services office.

Registration is due by Sept. 4.

The registration fee is $10 for an individual, and $30 for a family.

“We are hoping to cover our expenses,” explains Fletcher, when asked what the fees will go towards. Expenses for the event currently include the rental of the Bike Trailer, as well as T-shirts provided for each of the participants.

However, Fletcher hopes that once the event becomes more established, the fees will be able to go toward something more.

“If we do have leftover funds, we will use them to create a scholarship in honor or memory of a local veteran,” explains Fletcher.

In the meantime, Fletcher is simply excited to get the event started this year.

“We will just have to wait and see how things go,” Fletcher says with a smile.