MEDINA — A steady rainfall did not stop more than 500 runners from participating in the sixth annual Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers 5K on Sunday morning.
“The weather does pose a challenge but we are very heartened by the number of people that told us yesterday they were coming today,” race director Mark Phillips said just before the start of the run/walk at 8:15 a.m. “In fact, they (said they) were going to bring more people because of the rain.”
The FDNY Firefighter Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers 5K Run and Walk was established by the family of Siller, who ran from Brooklyn through Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, to help his fellow first responders that day.
Siller was one of the 343 members of FDNY who lost their lives on 9/11.
Event volunteer Bruce D’Errico addressed the runners as they stood in the rain, some wearing full turnout gear, during the event’s opening ceremonies.
“It would not be a Tunnel to Towers run if we did not quickly talk about Stephen’s sacrifice and what he did on 9/11,” he said.
D’Errico said the firefighter had plans to golf with his brothers that day when he learned of the events that were unfolding at the World Trade Center in Manhattan.
“Instead of playing golf with his brothers, he pulled his truck off to the side of the road,” he said. “He was part of a squad out of Brooklyn and to get to the environment we know as 9/11, to get to Ground Zero, he had to run through a tunnel called the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, which is 2 miles long itself and on the way out of the tunnel he had to run another mile.”
“Stephen gave his life to save others, and that is why we run approximately the same amount of distance that he ran with his gear on,” D’Errico said. “
In addition to honoring the first responders who died on 9/11, the run also recognized four Ohio police officers who were killed in the line of duty this year: Westerville police officers Eric Joering and Anthony Morelli, Mentor police Officer Mathew Mazany and Cleveland police Patrolman Vu Nguyen.
Sharon Township firefighter Chris Habersack was one of several local first responders wearing full firefighter turnout gear for the event.
“Myself and usually a handful of our members come every year to run just to remember the events of 9/11 and all the first responders that died that day,” he said before the race started.
Tunnel to Towers Foundation volunteer and FDNY firefighter Thomas DeAngelo said during opening ceremonies that he lost an uncle who served with FDNY on 9/11, and he began volunteering with the foundation shortly after it was established in 2001.
“I do a career day every year at one of my old schools, bring my gear, show the kids, let them try the jacket on, and not one of them was alive for 9/11,” he said during the opening ceremonies. “It is officially in the history books.”
DeAngelo said that while it is a history lesson for today’s students, it is important for those who remember the day share what happened on 9/11.
“If there is one other thing you can remember today, it is please never forget and pass the word,” he said.
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