Harrisburg Marathon


img_20161113_085513268Last month on a chilly Sunday, I drove roundtrip from Virginia to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. My daughter questioned why I was doing this. I did not have a short explanation, but I felt this was something I had to do.

Last year, a colleague, a fellow Black woman architect was killed in what is assumed to be a domestic dispute. I didn’t know Desiree Cooper well. We met through mutual architecture friends and talked several times when we were at events. Her death was felt throughout the local architecture community, from our professional organizations, AIA and NOMA, to her firm coworkers at Little Architects.

img_20161202_005552.jpg Personally, my mother died in October 2012. Having that experience fresh in mind, after the homegoing service, I wanted a way to help the Cooper family and to support them. When my mother died, I had a few friends who continued to check in with me. The called, emailed, mailed cards just to say they were thinking of me and my family. As time passes, you feel like you are the only one remembering that person. It is good to know that other people still hold her memory. I talked with Desiree’s friends and colleagues about an idea of “adopting” the Coopers and having someone send them a card/ letter/phone call every month for the next year.

runnersfinish-runningrl-cropWith the success of people willing to reaching out to the family, the group started talking about a larger activity. Someone suggested running in the Harrisburg Marathon, Desiree’s hometown, in her memory. She was an avid runner and even convinced friends to run with her, so this seemed fitting. The group got excited about this and the idea of team shirts came up. We brainstormed and created a logo and a Facebook page.

On November 13, four runners ran the marathon as a relay team, with the Desiree’s Victory Crew shirts. Desiree’s parents and brother, friends and supporters came out to cheer on the relay team along the route. The air had a slight chill, but, it was sunny and an otherwise great day for a run. familyrunnersrr-crop

A year after that tragic event, a group of people who previously did not know each other came together to honor and celebrate Desiree Cooper, a friend, colleague, daughter and sister. For me it was paying forward what friends had done for me. Yes it was long drive, but I am so glad to have been a part of this.