By Kat Kaderabek
On July 19, 2020, many lives were changed. The CUA community lost a vibrant member, the school lost a brilliant student, and two parents lost a loving child. This past year has attested to the incredible impact Daniel Anderl had on the lives of CUA students, culminating in the inaugural 5 kilometer Walk/Run entitled “Love is Light.” Over thirty Catholic University students joined Daniel’s parents, friends, and family to celebrate his life and legacy at the Love is Light 5k.
Several days after what would have been his 21st birthday, and only two days prior to the anniversary of his death, over 1,200 participants gathered at the North Brunswick, New Jersey community park to run in honor of Daniel Anderl. The event generated nearly $200,000- double the original goal- to be donated in scholarships for students at Daniel’s alma maters, St. Joseph’s High School and The Catholic University of America, as well as Rutgers New Brunswick.
In addition to this, the race was meant to bring about more action regarding Daniel’s Law. New Jersey Bill A1649 entitled the “Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act of 2020,” protects the privacy of all federal judges and their families. Signed into New Jersey law on November 11th, 2020 by Governor Phil Murphy, the bill has now been sent forth for congressional approval.
The race was not only a testament of the impact Daniel Anderl had on the lives of the North Brunswick community and visitors, but also of the strength and grace of his parents. Judge Esther Salas and Mark Anderl are awe-inspiring. From their unshakable faith to the friendly smiles and welcoming atmosphere, it is clear that Daniel learned much from his parents.
Both mother and father participated in the race, taking time to say hello and thank you to the many people who came to support them in their journey. Salas’s message of “hate is heavy, but love is light” was present at every step of the race. From the hollering screams of runners to the smiling volunteers who passed water bottles to every participant, the amount of love present at North Brunswick Community Park was overwhelming and certainly something that would make Daniel proud.
His friends who participated in the race shared the same sentiments, including lifelong friend and fellow Catholic University student, Saul Gomez.
“I did not train,” Gomez confessed, “so I eventually got really tired and dizzy. But I thought to myself, this is for Dan, and he would push me 100% so I have to keep going.”
The morning of the race, several students made the three-hour trek from Washington, D.C., leaving as early as 5:00 a.m. to attend the in-person event. When asked about the journey, several students merely said “he would do it for us.” Simple, yet so incredibly true.
“The run was a great way of remembering Dan in a positive, heartfelt manner, while still allowing us healthy moments of mourning,” said friend and peer of Dan, Matt Ziegler. “Overall, it was an amazing tribute to Dan and a great witness of faith, trust, and love the Anderl’s possess for Christ.”
The race also held a virtual component and was live-streamed on several platforms. CUA student Kat Haley acted as part of the “Love is Light” coordinating committee. She was greatly touched by the amount of support received for the event.
“Seeing people come together from not just across the United States, but our virtual participants worldwide, demonstrated just how many lives Dan touched both near and far,” Haley said.
While not all students could make it to the event, the Catholic University community demonstrated its resilience by donating and supporting from a distance. Senior, Allie Wertz, found the race to be a time of reflection as much as it was a celebration of Dan’s life.
“He was such a huge part of my college experience,” Wertz said. “Dan was always there. He was up for anything and loved simply spending time with the people he cared about. I try to emanate his light every day. The strength his parents have shown this past year is a testament to Dan’s personal strength and faith that he carried in life. Things will never be the same without him.”
And though we may never be the same, it is clear that we have been elevated by knowing and loving Daniel Anderl. The “Love is Light” event will continue to serve as a reminder to hold the ones you love close, always choose light, and that the strength and resiliency of the human spirit is aided by those above who watch over us now.