Community support keeps Walk with Joe going strong

By Jack Murtha News Transcript

Annual event honoring heroes of Flight 93 set for September 8 in Manalapan

MANALAPAN — The story of Patrick “Joe” Driscoll, a passenger who lost his life on Flight 93 out of Newark on September 11, 2001, still saddens many Manalapan residents, who often remember Driscoll for his dedication to the community he called home for more than 40 years.

On that morning, passengers and crew members fought back against the terrorists who hijacked the plane, thwarting their plan to crash the jet into a target in Washington, D.C. Instead, the plane crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pa.

In the wake of the tragedy, Driscoll, who was 70 at the time of his death, left a legacy that continues to unite neighbors, local business owners and community leaders in their efforts to bring hope to those less fortunate.

The 11th  annual Walk with Joe, a 5-K stroll to honor Driscoll and his fellow passengers, is scheduled for 10 a.m. September 8 at Monmouth Battlefield State Park, Route 33, Manalapan.

“It’s a day of remembrance and healing. We have families come out. It’s great that we get this community involvement,” said Manalapan Township Committeeman Jordan Maskowitz, who chairs the event. “It’s good to know that Joe’s memory is still living.”

Individuals from throughout the area come out to show their support for Driscoll and those who died on September 11, 2001. Last year’s walk drew 1,700 people, said Driscoll’s son, Chris.

“There’s always that core group of a couple hundred people who are there — family, friends, neighbors, people who my father coached in sports and taught in CCD,” Driscoll said. “But the sheer number of strangers who come up and say they know the story and say they want to support us always strikes me.”

To date, the event has raised $250,000 for a number of charities, Maskowitz said, including the Samaritan Center, the Freehold Area Open Door food pantry, and the Monmouth County Child Advocacy Center.

The walk could not take place without the help of a legion of committed sponsors, like community organizations and local businesses, that have continually breathed life into Walk with Joe, Driscoll said.

“You just can’t do it without these donors,” he added. “Our thanks are never-ending.

At the end of the day, what these people do for the community, their support goes beyond the walk.”

Matt Hartigan, a co-owner of Hartigan’s Grille, Englishtown, has provided backing for the Walk with Joe for several years. The collection of local small businesses is a tight-knit group that hopes to show residents “we are together in this,” he said.

“As business owners, it couldn’t make us any more proud that we are in a position to not only remember somebody we knew personally, who lost his life in the attack, but also that we can use what we do every day to help a good cause,” Hartigan added.

For Hartigan, the memory of the September 11 terrorist attacks is still clear in his mind. He saw the smoke rise from the World Trade Center buildings from his 14-story Staten Island, N.Y., dormitory.

“It’s always personally affected me,” Hartigan said, noting that his father and Joe Driscoll were good friends.

The fact that longtime sponsors remain devoted to the Walk with Joe is a source of comfort for the Driscoll family.

“When you have that type of commitment, growth and energy still there, and people want to continue to make one Saturday in September a priority to honor dad, it really kind of goes beyond words,” Chris Driscoll said. “It just means so much to us. It’s a bittersweet day.”

CME Associates, the Englishtown Auction Sales and Fitness Magazine have remained steadfast in their support for the event, according to the organizers.

Maskowitz noted that groups like the Manalapan Soccer Club also drive support for the walk.

“Some of the kids in the soccer association, and even any children in town, were little kids at the time [of the attacks],” Maskowitz said. “Some of them weren’t even born. For them, it’s a page in the history book.”

When the event began in 2002, Driscoll said, the organizers had two goals: to honor his father and to ease the pain of the family.

“Over the past decade, they just absolutely knocked the ball out of the park in ways that they don’t even know,” Driscoll said. “My family and certainly my father are proud.”

To register for the September 8 Walk with Joe, visit www.walkwithjoe.com.

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