Hero to ground zero: Runners remember lionheart’s charge to Twin Towers

Standard-bearers: Firefighters lead the Tunnel to Towers run down Hamilton Avenue toward the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel on Sept. 27.
Photo by Jason Speakman

It took thousands to follow in one hero’s footsteps.

More than 30,000 patriots commemorated the lives lost in the 9-11 terror attacks during the annual Tunnel to Towers run on Sept. 27.

The throng charged through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel from Red Hook to Manhattan, following the footprints of off-duty Park Slope firefighter Stephen Siller, who died responding to the 2001 attacks after dashing through the tunnel with 60 pounds of gear strapped to his back when traffic closures prevented him from driving.

The outpouring of support warmed the hearts of the hero’s family, one organizer said.

“The idea that what this man did 14 years ago is still resonating with people to this extent is just astounding to us — it’s so touching,” said Catherine Christman, Siller’s cousin and a spokeswoman for the run.

About 25,000 runners assembled in the Ikea parking lot in Red Hook before making the dash up Hamilton Avenue, into the tunnel, and emerging in Manhattan — and several thousand onlookers lined up along the route to cheer runners on, Christman said.

The event is a fund-raiser for the Siller Foundation, which builds homes for injured firefighters and veterans, and which recently began directing aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy after the 2012 storm.

Beancounters are still tallying the run’s total take, Christman said. Last year, the group raised more than $1.7 million through Tunnel to Towers runs around the nation, and New York’s run elicited more than three-quarters of that total, the group’s financial records show.

And with more people participating this year than last, the foundation is hoping for an even larger haul, Christman said.

“The numbers are up from last year,’ she said. “We are just delighted and thrilled.”

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.

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