This past Sunday, members of the Middlebush Volunteer Fire Department took part in the Tunnel to Towers Race in New York City honoring former FDNY Stephen Siller who on 9/11, while on his way to play golf on his day off, took his gear from his car on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and ran through the tunnel with the extra 75 pounds of gear to the Manhattan side to help others trapped in the World Trade Center. This race not only honors Siller, but also the 342 other FDNY Firefighters (343 in total) 37 Port Authority Police, 23 NYPD Officers and 8 EMT’s … 411 Emergency Responders in total that were killed in action during the attacks on 9/11. This was the second time in two years that Middlebush has attended and participated in the event, with multiple Officers and Firefighters in attendance to run or walk the course. This year we had a number of members run in full gear (some had done it last year as well) which meant that they trekked the 3.5 miles with full turnout gear on (minus the boots) … pants, jacket and helmet … even gloves! The remainder of the post below will detail our day and the general feeling of the event …
All participating members gathered at the station at 5am to make the trek into NYC and got their Department T-shirts upon arrival … we also had members of Station 25, Community follow us in to the city. We made our way into NY and parked on John Street in South Street Seaport, and made our way to Pier 11 to the Ferry that would transport us (free with Race bibs!) to Brooklyn and the start line. Once boarded we made our way across the Hudson, with the Statue of Liberty in sight and perfect blue skies behind her. We arrived on the Brooklyn side and walked to the ikea parking area where the packet pick up and meet up area was setup. During our time there, we ran into some neighboring fire departments from town … Station 25, Community, and Station 27, East Franklin, so we took a fantastic group picture and the prepared to get into our assigned Wave. Depending on how you signed up, you were assigned Wave A through Wave G … Wave A were the timed runners and Wave G were the walkers … in between seemed to range from non-timed running to jogging. We made our way up to the ‘Start Line’ and as we broke off into our sections wished each other luck and made our way forward. Those in Wave A were close enough to the front, where you could see the stage and the hundreds of flags setup at the beginning of the route. Stephen Sillers nephew sang, former Mayor Rudy Guiliani spoke to the crowd and before you knew it … the race was ready to begin.
The first group in Wave A was off and then Middlebush’s group moved up to the start and a few minutes later were off! 4 of the 5 members in Wave A were running in full gear … the 5th (yours truly) captured photos and videos of everyone up front to share. We made our way down through the toll booths and into the Tunnel and had a nice and easy descent for a while … this year (compared to last year) the tunnel was nice and cool and the air vents on both sides were pumping in cold air which made it much more comfortable. Also this year, armed police officers were stationed in the tunnel at each side door entrance, ensuring our safety by providing a presence and overseeing everything … thank you to those officers! As we ran through the tunnel, chants of USA, USA carried through the air and even when as the terrain turned from a decent to an ascent, nothing soured the runner spirit. Those running without gear encouraged those in gear and gave pep talks and families walked hand in hand through the tunnel as they tired running up the hill towards the tunnel exit. As we neared the end of the 1.72 mile tunnel, the light from the other side began to shine through and you could hear everyone cheering … we exited the tunnel in within a couple of hundred feet, we greeted by hundreds of FDNY Firefighters & NYPD Officers on both sides of the street. On the left they were holding United States flags and on the right, they were holding banners … one for each emergency responder killed on 9/11, and as you made your way past them they gave you high fives and provided words of encouragement. The number and sheer magnitude of the number of banners is amazing and cannot be expressed by words (nor the videos below) … it is an emotional journey running past all of these banners, because similar to the Firefighters of Middlebush, they entered the profession to serve and protect … and they did that until they no longer could. A number of runners had shirts that summed it up best … “We run because we remember”, we remember those who gave their lives to help others on the day, just like we remember our service men and women who protect our freedom day in and day out. As we passed through the sea of banners, we hit a water table to hydrate and continued past another row of banner before turning left towards the Hudson, passing a band playing some great music. As we got own by the water, an FDNY boat was spraying water out of every nozzle they had … so much so that a beautiful rainbow popped up from the sun hitting it just right. We ran along the waterline, then turned right back toward West Street and the finish line. One more right and the finish sign was about 400 feet down the road … 3.5 miles complete and another amazing experience that we were all able to take part in.
Once the runners/walkers finished the race, they could get a water and banana, then head to the after party area. The after party area had vendors such as Dunkin Donuts and Dole handing out free goodies and volunteers were handing out Hamburgers, Hot Dogs and Ribs. There was a band up on stage called ‘The E Street Band’, a Bruce Springsteen Cover band playing all his greatest hits … the atmosphere was electric … everyone was having a great time and it showed. Because we had runners and walkers in different groups … we agreed that we would all meet up at 11:30am at a restaurant where reservations had been made called ‘SouthWest NY’. For those who ran and finished earlier, they could hang out at the party area, go to the memorial pools, watch the racers coming out of the tunnel of … all of the above J. Once 11:30am hit we all gathered at our meeting spot, took in some delicious and much needed food and relaxed for a bit. After our meal, as a group, we walked over to each of the memorial pools. First to the South Tower where we took in the sights and sounds around the area … it’s a very solemn and quiet setting, with everyone reflecting on what the pools represent … but it’s also a park like atmosphere. We made our way to the North Tower pool and while there saw some white roses in the wall around the pool, which we later found out represented a victim of the attacks who was celebrating a birthday on that day. Someone goes out every day and makes sure a white rose is placed on those who would have been celebrating a birthday … it’s a very somber thought, but at the same time an amazing action that is carried out in remembrance of those who lost their lives. After visiting the memorial pools, we made our way back to the Van which was a few blocks away and made our way back to New Jersey.
The experience as a whole is just amazing and we recommended that anyone who can take part in the run/walk in the future to do so … it will really open your eyes to just how much effort NYC and the Siller Foundation but into the remembrance of those first responders. Below you will find a number of pictures and some videos from the day … we hope that you enjoy them!
Middlebush Vol Fire – Running Towards the Tunnel
Middlebush Vol Fire – Running Into the Tunnel
Middlebush Vol Fire – Inside the Tunnel
Middlebush Vol Fire – Running in the Tunnel
Middlebush Vol Fire – Running in the Tunnel
Middlebush Vol Fire – Running Out of the Tunnel – Banners Part 1
Middlebush Vol Fire – Running Out of the Tunnel – Banners Part 2
Middlebush Vol Fire – Running Next to the FDNY Boat
Middlebush Vol Fire – The Finish Line!