By: Nick Powell, Irmo Fire Department
Lexington Medical Center will present the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers South Carolina 5K Run & Walk on Friday, September 6, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. in Columbia’s Vista. The event honors Stephen Siller, a New York City firefighter and father of five who died on September 11, 2001. That day, Siller was off duty and on his way to play golf. When he heard what was happening at the World Trade Center, he strapped on 60 pounds of gear and ran from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center. He was last seen with his brothers of Squad 1 saving lives. Tunnel to Towers is a national program that champions our heroes.
Last year, I was one of three chosen to go to New York City to run in the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers 5K New York race. I was honored to represent South Carolina on what would become the trip of a lifetime.
South Carolina’s historical relationship with the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) and our close connection with Ladder 101 made the run a unique experience. White Knoll Middle School and the citizens of our community donated a fire truck to Ladder 101 after the company’s truck was lost in the 9/11 attacks.
When we landed in New York for the race in September of 2012, eleven years after the attacks, firefighters from FDNY, Ladder 1, picked us up at the airport. They took us to the fire station in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where we stayed for three nights. The first responders at the firehouse took great care of us; we ate like kings! We toured the Hudson Bay on Marine 6, a FDNY fireboat. Later, we toured the city and other firehouses, and met many firefighters who lost fellow first responders and friends during 9/11.
On race day, we were humbled and inspired by our stay in New York and ready to run. The 5K started in front of FDNY Ladder 101. We suited up in full bunker gear and set out with the American flag and the South Carolina flag. The three of us took turns with each flag and ran all the way to the end – never stopping. Running in Stephen’s footsteps, we passed true American heroes who were severely wounded in war. We cheered them on and yelled U.S.A. all the way through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. When we got out of the tunnel, spectators lined the streets cheering us on and waving American flags. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk New York was amazing and it showed me that there are still good people in America; people who don’t forget (9/11)
Help us honor the memory of the fallen. Support first responders and military families and run with us on September 6 at the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers South Carolina 5K Run and Walk, presented by Lexington Medical Center, right here in Columbia.