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New York 5K Pays Tribute to Heroes of 9/11

The event was inspired by an American hero.

By:  |  October 7, 2022  |    601 Words
GettyImages-610613190 Tunnel to Towers 911

(Photo by Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“One of the worst days in America’s history saw some of the bravest acts in Americans’ history. We’ll always honor the heroes of 9/11.” – George W. Bush

September 11, 2001, was a tragic day in American history that left nearly 3,000 lives lost to terrorism. Over the years, efforts have been made to honor the fallen. New York’s Tunnel to Towers 5K Run and Walk is an event held to remember the 343 firefighters and first responders who lost their lives to save others, specifically Stephen Gerard Siller. Siller was a New York City firefighter and his memory is now the inspiration for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, a group that aims to help the nation’s heroes.

The path of the five-kilometer (3.1 mile) walk and run follows the final path traveled by Siller on 9/11. Additionally, this year’s event paid tribute to service members who died fighting the war on terror against Afghanistan.

The Event

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation holds lots of these runs across the country, and at any time of year – though most take place from August to October.

GettyImages-610613232 Tunnels to Towers

(Photo by Andy Katz/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

On September 25, 2022, over 32,000 people in New York joined the city’s annual event. Among the runners were survivors of the 9/11 attacks, firefighters, police officers, veterans of war, and family members of those whose lives were lost. The run retraces Siller’s steps from the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel to the World Trade Center (ground zero of the attacks).

Even though his working shift was complete, and he was headed to play a round of golf with his brothers, Siller chose to respond to the news that a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. He could not drive through the Hugh L. Carey bridge, so he grabbed some gear, abandoned his truck, and started running toward the chaos. Unfortunately, he never made it home that evening.

Many feel immense honor when taking the final path of a hero, and many emotions accompany the run. Tiffany Eckert, one of the participants, lost her husband to the war overseas. She shared the importance of the run and what it meant to her. Eckert said, “I couldn’t sleep last night. And every time I think about walking through the tunnel, I get choked up thinking about Stephen’s story and my husband.”

The Tunnels to Towers Foundation

Established by Stephen’s brother, Frank, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation began its work after 9/11. Inspired by the story of Stephen Siller, the foundation works to decrease the number of homeless veterans. It has paid for the houses of Gold Star and fallen first responder families, and built smart homes for severely injured veterans, first responders, and their families. Another goal of the charity is to provide aid to those affected by disasters in the US.

Jon Lee, a firefighter from Maine, was one first responder to participate in this year’s run in New York. He chose to run in his firefighting gear. Lee explained his decision was in honor of Siller: “He did it to save strangers’ lives. He did that for others. He did that for us. And the least I can do to honor him is to run the same route in the same gear.”

“It’s a small sacrifice that we can do, the closest thing we can get to physically — not mentally, not emotionally,” commented Westchester fireman Carlo Valente at the event. “So many people have forgotten what happened that day. It’s just a page in a history book that they just glance over. I don’t want to forget.”

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