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Baltimore's first-ever 9/11 Heroes Run kicks off at the Inner Harbor

Some 250 people stepped out Sunday for Baltimore’s first 9/11 Heroes Run to honor fallen veterans and first responders.

The run, which wound across the Inner Harbor into Little Italy and back, was dedicated to Xavier Martin, the 24 year-old sailor from Halethorpe who died in June when the Navy destroyer he was aboard collided with a containership off the coast of Japan.

“Today’s been incredible,” said Pat Cappelaere of Ellicott City, who helped bring the event together. His daughter, naval aviator Valerie Cappelaere Delaney, was killed in 2013 during a training exercise in Washington state. Delaney was a lacrosse player, and dozens of young lacrosse players from Towson ran in the race.

Sunday’s race included some 30 Gold Star families, who have lost family members in the military. Cappelaere said events like the run help them realize they’re not alone.

“It’s about being part of something bigger than ourselves,” he said.

Cappelaere, a software architect, regularly reaches out to other Gold Star families. He was one of the first to speak to Darrold Martin, Xavier Martin’s dad, after he died.

Darrold Martin sat wearing dark sunglasses, a photo of his son in uniform on his T-shirt. It was another painful Sunday in the months since his son’s death.

“It’s hard,” he said. Xavier would have been 25 last week. “So that was very difficult.”

He perked up when talking about his son’s honors. A wing of a Navy building in Tennessee was named after him. He flipped through photos showing his son's name.

“That is so cool,” he said.

Martin still has questions about how his son died.

“This was, for lack of a better term, a traffic accident,” he said. Other Navy ships have crashed this year. Through Gold Star families, Martin has been in touch with people who had family members on board the USS McCain, a destroyer that collided with a ship in August, killing 10 sailors.

“We talk constantly,” he said.

Martin said he’s found solace in meeting other people like him through Gold Star families.

“They get me,” he said. “It’s a beautiful organization but it sucks, because initiation is you have to lose someone.”

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