A patriotic run through NYC tunnels

NEW YORK – Coast Guard Sector New York servicemembers participate in the Stephen Siller Foundation Tunnel to Tower 5K run in downtown New York City on Sept. 25, 2016. Coast Guardsmen from Sector New York, Station Fire Island, Station Eaton’s Neck, and the Coast Guard Academy, were just a few of the units that participated. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sara Romero)

NEW YORK – Coast Guard Sector New York servicemembers participate in the Stephen Siller Foundation Tunnel to Tower 5K run in downtown New York City on Sept. 25, 2016. Coast Guardsmen from Sector New York, Station Fire Island, Station Eaton’s Neck, and the Coast Guard Academy, were just a few of the units that participated. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sara Romero)

Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sara Romero

The crisp, fall air and the echoing song from the bagpipes welcome over 25,000 runners as they exit the dark, muggy tunnel in the final mile of the Stephen Siller Foundation 15th Annual Tunnel to Towers 5K in New York City, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016. Among the participants were several Coast Guard members from the surrounding tri-state area.

NEW YORK – A Coast Guard Sector New York servicemember participates in the Stephen Siller Foundation Tunnel to Tower 5K run in downtown New York City on Sept. 25, 2016. Coast Guardsmen from Sector New York, Station Fire Island, Station Eaton’s Neck, and the Coast Guard Academy, were just a few of the units that participated. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sara Romero)

NEW YORK – A Coast Guard Sector New York servicemember participates in the Stephen Siller Foundation Tunnel to Tower 5K run in downtown New York City on Sept. 25, 2016. Coast Guardsmen from Sector New York, Station Fire Island, Station Eaton’s Neck, and the Coast Guard Academy, were just a few of the units that participated. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sara Romero)

The Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk Series was created to retrace the final steps of Stephen Siller, a New York City firefighter who lost his life on Sept. 11, 2001. The run and walk event pays homage to all first responders who made, and continue to make, extraordinary sacrifices in the line of duty.

“Running through the tunnel made me feel great, it made me realize the sacrifice that Stephen Siller had done,” said Coast Guard Academy 3rd Class Cadet Christopher Nadeau. “It is really hard to capture what he did, wearing his full turn-out gear and us in gym gear. In a small way, I can imagine what he might have gone through to get to the towers.”

NEW YORK – Coast Guard Sector New York servicemembers stand together near the finish line after completing the Stephen Siller Foundation Tunnel to Tower 5K run in downtown New York City on Sept. 25, 2016. The foundation recently started the Building for America’s Bravest program, which designs and constructs homes for the most critically wounded soldiers. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sara Romero)

NEW YORK – Coast Guard Sector New York servicemembers stand together near the finish line after completing the Stephen Siller Foundation Tunnel to Tower 5K run in downtown New York City on Sept. 25, 2016. The foundation recently started the Building for America’s Bravest program, which designs and constructs homes for the most critically wounded soldiers. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sara Romero)

On Sept. 11, Siller, who was assigned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1, had just finished his shift and was on his way to play golf with his brothers when he got word of the first plane hitting Tower One over his scanner. Upon hearing the news, Siller called his wife Sally and asked her to inform his brothers he would catch up with them later. He then returned to the fire station to get his gear. Stephen drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, but he found it closed due to security concerns. Determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 pounds of gear to his back, and raced on foot through the tunnel to the site of the World Trade Center, where he paid the ultimate sacrifice while saving others.

“Everyone said that coming out of the tunnel was going to be the most awe-inspiring part, and it really was the most incredible sight to see the firefighters and servicemembers holding the banners and cheering us on as we ran through the race,” said Lt. j.g. Rachel Laplante, an officer from Coast Guard Sector New York Prevention Department. “It was very inspirational.”

The Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk is approximately 3 1/2 miles long, slightly longer than a standard five-kilometer course. It begins at the Brooklyn entrance to the tunnel, officially known as the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, then continues into the streets of Manhattan, and finishes just steps from the 9/11 Memorial. Throughout the entire race, the path is lined with uniformed police officers and firefighters holding banners with photographs of their fallen brothers.

The goal of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation is to continue Stephen’s legacy by supporting our nation’s first responders and servicemembers. Building for America’s Bravest, a program of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, constructs specially adapted smart homes for our most seriously injured servicemembers. Both active and retired members of the Fire Department of New York City support the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation in efforts to help America’s military heroes regain their independence. The firefighter community gives back to injured heroes through fundraising events and mentorship initiatives.

“It felt amazing to run this race and it made me realize how much patriotism there is in America today,” said Coast Guard Academy 3rd Class Cadet Colin Johnson. “It made me proud to serve my country.”

NEW YORK – Coast Guard Academy 3rd Class Cadet Colin Johnson and 3rd Class Cadet Christopher Nadeau stand together amongst the festivities at the finish line after completing the Stephen Siller Foundation Tunnel to Tower 5K run in downtown New York City on Sept. 25, 2016. The mission of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation is to honor the sacrifice of firefighter Stephen Siller, who laid down his life to save others on Sept. 11, 2001. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sara Romero)

NEW YORK – Coast Guard Academy 3rd Class Cadet Colin Johnson and 3rd Class Cadet Christopher Nadeau stand together amongst the festivities at the finish line after completing the Stephen Siller Foundation Tunnel to Tower 5K run in downtown New York City on Sept. 25, 2016. The mission of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation is to honor the sacrifice of firefighter Stephen Siller, who laid down his life to save others on Sept. 11, 2001. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sara Romero)

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