Today I followed in the footsteps of a hero to the site where many served our country on 9/11/01. On that day, FDNY employee Stephen Siller finished work and was going home to golf with his three older brothers when he heard the World Trade Center had been hit. As a true hero, he decided to help his city even while off-duty and headed towards the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. The tunnel was closed for security reasons, so he strapped 65 pounds of gear on his back and ran towards the site that so many were running from. He never returned home.
This morning I ran the “Tunnel to Towers” 5K race that follows Stephen’s path that day, ending at the new Freedom Tower. Alongside 30,000 other runners/walkers, we ran with pride through the tunnel and the streets of New York City. We remembered, we honored and we ran as one. Not only was I touched by the amount of people, but also the firefighters from all over the world who dressed in full gear for the run to show their respects. The purpose of the run is “I Promise to Never Forget,” and that message rang clear throughout the day.
The majority of the race takes place in the tunnel, which is hot, slow and inspiring! Shoulder-to-shoulder with complete strangers, the tunnel echos with chants of USA and applause for so many people who work to make this world a better place. When you exit the tunnel, the right side of the street is lined with men in uniform holding personalized flags for each firefighter, police officer and hero who lost their life that day. The left side of the road was lined with American flags. From high-fives to shouts of thanks, it was near impossible not to feel the true emotion of the race at this moment.
As we neared the finish line, we ran behind two firemen running together with the Freedom Tower in the background. But, the most impactful part of the scene was one was holding a US flag and the other holding a UK flag…united. We crossed the finish line and vowed to return every year for this race. I recommend anyone who wants to be a part of something amazing sign up follow in the footsteps of a hero next year. Just know that you may not be able to run full-stride and you won’t set a PR, but for most the race isn’t timed. Rather the journey is a reminder that we are surrounded by heroes everyday and to never give up faith in humanity. #neverforget
NOTE: The picture uploader isn’t working right now, but I’ll post pictures soon. They tell the story better than any words ever could.