On Sunday September 25th I had the pleasure, but more importantly the honor of running the Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers 5k. I urge all of you to at a minimum give the website a look. But I hope some of you will go even further and decide to donate to the cause in whatever form you see fit. You see, this was not your normal 5k. The premise of this run was to follow the path that a New York firefighter who on 9/11 ran from Brooklyn to the World Trade Center only to perish while trying to save the lives of others. The run was to benefit the Weill-Cornell Burn Center as well as other burn centers across America. In short, the entire experience was moving, rewarding and memorable. But this is not something to leave short of full explanation.
In my previous life I was an EMT. Part of the reason I became an EMT is that I have always had a respect for those who volunteer as fire or EMS (as well as those who make it a career). The sacrifice of those individuals and families of those who lost their lives or loved ones on 9/11 is immeasurable. The Tunnel To Towers run did an excellent job of honoring not only Stephen’s sacrifice but all of those who lost their life on 9/11. I do not think I was not the only one who thought so, for roughly 30,000 people came out to run or walk the course.
When I woke up for the race I had little idea the magnitude of what I was about to participate in, I did not think it would be much more of an event than the other 5ks I have ran. As I found out on my way to the race I was wrong. Soon after exiting the Borough Hall subway stop I met two gentlemen who came from Anchorage Alaska (roughly 4,300 miles away) to run the race. It was at this point that I began to realize what this race was and what it meant to people not just in New York but the world over. We made our way down to the starting area via bus and were awed by the amount of people we saw.
My two new found friends and I were representing our respective companies: Anchorage Fire/EMS and Narberth Ambulance (VMSC 313). We were not the only ones. I saw fire, ems and police gear from more municipalities than I could ever remember. I saw a contingent of U.S. Marshalls in full tactical gear running as a squad. I saw members of the London Fire Brigade (roughly 3,500 miles away) and members of a fire company from the Netherlands (roughly 3,650 miles away), I am sure these are not the only participants who crossed national borders and vast distances to come run on that Sunday morning. Many of the firemen I saw ran or walked in full turnout gear (in laymans terms turnout gear is the full gear one wears to go into and fight fires in, a fire suit if you will). I saw thousands upon thousands of civilians. It was amazing. It was an honor.
The race started with hundreds of armed forces servicemen and women running the course in column formation. The first few hundred meters of the race were unlike anything I have ever experienced. The beginning of the course was lined with nearly 1,600 West Point cadets (at least that is the number I was told), they seemed to be honoring us, we should be the ones honoring them.
Upon entering Battery Tunnel I experienced one of the most patriotic and memorable things I will ever experience. ‘God Bless America’ was bring played via loudspeakers in the tunnel. But I could not hear the music, I only heard thousands of my fellow Americans bellowing the song throughout Battery Tunnel. That was followed by cheers of ‘USA, USA, USA.’ Upon exiting the tunnel runners were greeted by hundreds of firemen and policemen holding up flags. Some held the flag of this great nation and others held flags with the name and picture of fallen comrades. From that point there was roughly a mile left. I kept running to the finish line, but more importantly I reflected on what it means to me to be an American and what it meant to me to be running that race. I crossed the finish line; I may have stopped running but I have yet to stop reflecting. It was amazing. It was an honor. It was something I will never forget, any of it, ever.
God Bless America,