WINTER SPRINGS, Fla. — For seven and a half short minutes, the track outside the Layer Elementary School in Winter Springs was awash with sirens, flags and the heavy footsteps of first responders running in full gear.
The activity was to honor Austin Duran, the Apopka firefighter who died from being crushed under a sand bucket container while working around his station on June 30.
Plenty of police officers, deputies and firefighters from Apopka and the surrounding agencies were on-hand to attend, including many who completed their mile-long run.
At the front of the pack: 13-year old Zechariah Cartledge, the founder of Running 4 Heroes, Inc, who has become nationally known for honoring every fallen first responder across the United States. His organization uses money collected through fundraising to give out grants to departments near and far.
Though he’s completed more than 1,000 miles since his 10th birthday, he was faced with several firsts Monday.
“Apopka hasn’t lost one since we started, and fire departments haven’t lost one in Central Florida since we started,” he said. “This is going to be a massive run, unfortunately.”
Onlookers said it was one of the biggest events Running 4 Heroes has ever put together. The moment wasn’t lost on the teenager.
“We hope that all of the Central Florida support we have tonight can show [Apopka firefighters and Duran’s family] that we are going to be with them and are going to be on their side,” he said, “No matter what the situation, Central Florida is going to have their back.”
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