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NYC 5K honors victims of 9/11, US personnel killed in wars

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Kristi Langenbacher

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By Kristi Langenbacher
Columnist

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Last weekend, thousands took to the streets of New York to honor those killed on Sept. 11, 2001, and military members who have lost their lives the years since.

Runners and walkers followed the final footsteps of 34-year-old New York City firefighter Stephen Siller, who ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel toward the Twin Towers on 9/11 while wearing 60 pounds of gear.

The Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk in New York is held each year on the last Sunday of September. What began with 1,500 people in 2002 is now considered by many to be one of the top 5K runs in America.

The event pays homage to the 343 New York City firefighters, 71 law enforcement officers, and thousands of civilians who lost their lives on that tragic day.

Siller, who was assigned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1, had just finished his shift and was on his way to play golf with his brothers when he got word over his scanner of a plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Upon hearing the news, he called his wife and asked her to tell his brothers he would catch up with them later. He returned to Squad 1 to get his gear.

He drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but it had already been closed for security purposes. Determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 pounds of gear to his back, and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he gave up his life while saving others.

The mission of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation is to honor the sacrifice of Siller and honor military and first responders who continue to make the supreme sacrifice of life and limb for our country. Proceeds from the event support the foundation’s programs, including those benefiting first responders, and catastrophically injured service members.

Firefighters, police officers, military members and their families from New York and around the world participated in this year’s event. Our daughter participated in the run for the second time, alongside other cadets from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and cadets from other military service academies.

This year, for the first time, the event also saluted members of the military who have died since 9/11. Hundreds of Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets lined parts of the route, standing shoulder to shoulder holding banners which displayed 7,000 pictures and names of fallen military members.

Many Gold Star families and supporters participated in the event and also stood along the route near the ROTC cadets. Gold Star is a designation given to a family that has lost a loved one in military service.

The Tunnel to Towers event also took place on National Gold Star Mother’s Day, which is the last Saturday in September each year. Since 1928 the Gold Star Mothers nonprofit organization has been working on behalf of Gold Star mothers and families. Their mission is on their website at goldstarmoms.com:

“Finding strength in the fellowship of other Gold Star Mothers who strive to keep the memory of our sons and daughters alive by working to help veterans, those currently serving in the military, their families and our communities.”

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