This past weekend, I did the hardest physical thing I have ever done - I walked 18 miles through the night in memory of my brother and in support of suicide prevention.
Starting at 7:30pm on Saturday and ending at 3:30am, I and over 2000 walkers, walked through Brooklyn and Manhattan. It was an amazing experience, one that was difficult but one I will never forget.
When I arrived, there were a sea of people and all you saw were the faces of their loved ones printed on their shirts. My niece and I wore gold (my brother's favorite color) t-shirts with blue lettering. It said very simply, I walk in memory of my brother Joey.
After registering, dropping off our luminaria bags decorated with personal messages for our loved ones and after picking up our different colored beads depending on whom you lost, we got ready for the walk to begin.
We stretched, listened to some fellow walkers including actress Mariel Hemingway and off we went at 7:30pm.Along the Brooklyn Promenade for a spectacular view of downtown Manhattan and over the Brooklyn Bridge. It was just beautiful. Down past City Hall, Ground Zero, along the East River and Staten Island Ferry and Battery Park.Somewhere near mile 7, a girl in her 20s stopped me and said, "I've been looking at your shirt and I just want to say that I'm walking for my brother Joey too." We cried and hugged. This was what the whole walk was about. Sharing your feelings and showing support for fellow survivors. It was truly an awe-inspiring and comforting experience.
We passed many NYPD, volunteers and just general New Yorkers cheering us along the route.
At midnight, we stopped at mile 10 for our midnight meal and off we went. Through 57th Street and down to SoHo, China Town, Little Italy and back over the Brooklyn Bridge.
The incline heading back to Brooklyn on the bridge was very hard and funny enough, it was my niece who had to stop for a minute.
The last several miles were hard but we made it. At the finish line we were cheered on by our family and the last hundred or so yards were illuminated with all of the candle bags each walker had made for our loved ones, symbolizing how the light of our loved ones will never be extinguished. It was hard to see so many bags representing so many loved ones lost to suicide. I found the bag I made for my brother - front and center on the stage just how he would've liked.There were several times I thought I would not make it. In fact, many did not. They wound up taking transportation back to the closing ceremonies.
My body was aching so bad. With the exception of a few bathroom breaks and a 10-minute meal, we walked non-stop ending at 3:30am - 18 miles in 8 hours.
Over $2.5 million dollars was raised, the highest ever in the 10-year history of the Out of the Darkness Overnight Walks.
Hopefully, we can help lift the stigma associated with suicide and depression and help others to not suffer the same fate my brother and so many others have.
Here and here are two links to some articles and photos about the walk.