The 2022 5K: Why I Run, With Katharine McDonnell

  • April 20, 2022
A young, blonde girl in a top with purple stars sits on her father's lap - he is wearing a burgundy top and has dark hair.
Katharine McDonnell and her father. Photos courtesy Katharine McDonnell.
A smiling man with short, dark hair stands in front of an American flag in an NYPD uniform

McDonnell's father, Brian

With the 9/11 Memorial & Museum 5K  just a few days away, we're chatting with participants about why they run and what the event means to them personally. The route of the race — on Sunday, the 24th — follows the path rescue and recovery workers took to access Ground Zero on 9/11 and in the days and weeks that followed. Participants pay tribute to them by running and walking in their footsteps. On 9/11, Katharine McDonnell lost her father Brian G. O'Donnell, in the attacks. Here, she shares her perspective. 

My dad was an ESU police officer who was killed in the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center. He was like my Superman. I knew his job was to help people, and he loved doing that. I think he wanted me to be strong like him, mentally and physically. I’m thankful that he was able to teach me how to ride a bike, swim in the ocean, fly a kite, throw a baseball. A strong memory I have is playing on the bleachers when he would run laps at our local HS track or watching him lift weights before daycare opened at the gym on his days off. He was so tough and strong, but humble and kind. 

On 9/11, I was in the 3rd grade. Even at that age, we knew something was wrong although my mom didn’t tell me much and wouldn’t let me watch the news. We were eating dinner when the phone rang with news that my dad was missing. I remember being at One Police Plaza waiting for news that never came. I remember what it smelled like. I’d like to thank all the people around the world who gave me blankets and teddy bears. I think it was a comfortable and hopeful thing to have in the times I was alone. 

I’m participating in the 9/11 Memorial 5K in honor of my dad and for all those killed. The 9/11 Memorial & Museum is a meaningful place and does the essential work of ensuring future generations never forget the lessons learned that day. Join me on April 24 to support their important mission: there's still time to register at

By Katharine McDonnell

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