TONI ANN BUCHALSKI
The New York City area has been touched by numerous stories pertaining to the attacks on the Twin Towers that occurred an unbelievable fourteen years ago. Every year we are reminded of these attacks, but we also take the time to honor every single one of those victims that our nation has lost. One by one, the brave men and women along with the names of thousands of other innocent lives are remembered at Ground Zero with a special ceremony.
With all the fundraisers and other events that are occur every year in honor of 9/11 victims, there is one in particular that sticks out to me: Tunnel to Towers. This run was all started due to the bravery of firefighter Stephen Gerard Siller. When Stephen received a call on his scanner that the Twin Towers had been hit, he got in his car and rushed towards NYC. He was stopped at the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. From there, he strapped on about sixty pounds of firefighting gear and ran from the tunnel to the towers. Stephen Siller was one of the thousands who risked their lives. Tunnel to Towers continues on as a means to honor his hard work and dedication.
I first had the opportunity of hearing about Tunnel to Towers from my good friend of several years Mr. John Donnelly. John, along with a few of his good friends, is a member of Chemical Engine 118 of the Croton-on-Hudson volunteer fire department. With Tunnel to Towers approaching this week, I sat down with John for a Q&A:
Q: When did you first hear about and/or participate in tunnel to towers?
A: I heard about it from my friends while I was still relatively new to the company.
Q: Did it ever impact your decision to join the FD?
A: I joined beforehand, so no it did not.
Q: Where does it start? Where exactly does it finish?
A: It starts in Red Hook, Brooklyn, just above the toll plaza for the battery tunnel. It ends in the downtown area a few blocks from the reflecting pools of the 9/11 memorial.
Q: How far of a run is it?
A: It says it’s a 5k, which is 3.2 miles, but in actuality it’s 3.5 miles. Slightly longer.
Q: How many people participate from your FD?
A: It varies year to year, but we’ve had 8 from our department and several more who are friends from neighboring departments.
Q: Why do you personally participate? What does it mean to you?
A: It’s a good cause. There are some wounded veterans that have injuries that make life after returning home especially difficult, and building homes to better the way so that they can go about their daily lives is what the organization organizing the event works towards. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers run follows the route of Stephen Siller and many others who hastily made their way into Manhattan on foot, overcoming stopped vehicles in the tunnel, and carrying their gear all the while. The majority of participants are not firefighters, and for the ones who are, some such as myself, choose to wear our personal gear. It is by no means easy as the tunnel becomes increasingly humid the further in we run.
Q: Do you encourage others to participate?
A: Having done it twice, it is really a moving experience. The support and comradery amongst participants is absolutely amazing along the run. I would absolutely encourage others to participate and participate in gear even. I feel that running in the footsteps of the bravest of fire EMS and police personnel that day honors those who went that distance, and beyond.
As John said, Tunnel to Towers is a good cause that really honors the memory of those who were willing to risk their lives for the entire city. This organization encourages all citizens to participate. For more information on Tunnel to Towers, please visit http://tunnel2towers.org/. Let us hope that this organization lives on and honors some of our nation’s bravest men and women forever.