Running to remember: Thousands travel route of late 9-11 firefighter at annual 5k fund-raiser

Tunneling forward: More than 30,000 runners ran from Red Hook through the Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center in Manhattan for the 16th-annual Tunnel to Towers 5k run and walk on Sunday.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

They followed the footsteps of a fallen hero.

Hordes of do-gooders from the borough and beyond gathered in Red Hook on Sunday to commemorate a local firefighter who lost his life after running from Brooklyn to Manhattan to help victims of the 9-11 terrorist attack.

Participants of the 16th-annual Tunnel to Towers 5k run and walk honored first responders to the tragedy including the late Stephen Siller, a firefighter from Park Slope who dashed through the Brooklyn–Battery Tunnel wearing 60 pounds of gear in order to reach the falling Twin Towers, where he died that day. More than 30,000 people hit the streets to follow Siller’s route at this year’s fund-raiser, which drew people — including firemen and women — from across the globe, according to organizers.

“There were runners from Indonesia, Sweden, Croatia, and Israel, and firefighters from the U.K. and Australia that ran in full gear, the same way Stephen did,” said Catherine Christman, Siller’s cousin and a member of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which aids first responders as well as military members.

Attendees mingled at a post-race block party following their trek, with live music, food, and games. The day was a fitting tribute to Siller, according to Christman, who said each year’s event allows her and other family members to celebrate their fallen relative with the community he died serving.

“What happened on 9-11 was a personal family tragedy, and we put our heads together to come up with a fitting tribute for a man who was full of energy, loved to laugh, and committed to doing good in this world,” she said. “This event captured that spirit.”

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