Thursday, October 4, 2012

Tunnel to Towers Run 2012: A Q Source Staff Member Retraces the Steps of a 9/11 Hero

Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Run 2012The firefighter donned his gear and started running through New York City's Battery Tunnel. It was hot, noisy, and crowded…but he kept running. His destination? The towers at the World Trade Center.

That's the journey that FDNY firefighter, Stephen Siller, made that fateful day of September 11th, 2001. Q Source's Web Assistant, John Garland, retraced those steps this past Sunday, September 30th, at the 2012 Tunnel to Towers 5K Run/Walk.

Garland, 23, has been with Q Source for three years. When he's not working on our Web site, he's a volunteer firefighter with the Mastic Fire Department here on Long Island. Along with about 25 other members of his fire station, Garland ran in the annual memorial event to honor Siller and the 343 firefighters who lost their lives that day eleven years ago.

Mastic Fire Department
A dedicated firefighter for almost five years, Sunday's Run was Garland's first. He had looked forward to participating in the event and now says that, "The experience was completely amazing…the atmosphere and environment were packed full of excitement, memories, pride, brotherhood…everything was there to make it something I will definitely never forget."

"Running in gear and realizing that he did the same that day, except full of traffic and knowing he might not be coming home, was a crazy feeling."

Freedom TowerThe Tunnel to Towers Run was created to recognize the selfless heroism displayed by Stephen Siller on 9/11. After hearing about the first plane hitting the tower, Siller (who had just finished the late shift) turned around to go back and meet his company. When he reached the Battery Tunnel it was already closed and jammed with traffic. He got out of his truck, grabbed his equipment (weighing about 60 pounds) and ran to the World Trade Center. Garland commented on following that path on Sunday, "Running in gear and realizing that he did the same that day, except full of traffic and knowing he might not be coming home, was a crazy feeling."

When Siller exited the tunnel that day he, undoubtedly, was hit with the impact and emotion of what he saw. Upon Garland's exit he, too, was overcome with emotion, "Coming out of the tunnel and seeing the FDNY lined up with photos of all of the 343 firefighters who gave their lives was touching, especially with the Freedom Tower showing in the background. It was absolutely beautiful and words can hardly describe it."

The Tunnel to Towers Run is not only a memorial tribute, it is also part of a wonderful charity to help build homes for severely wounded American soldiers. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the Gary Sinise Foundation worked together to create a program called, "Building for America's Bravest." The Run sees a large participation by members of the military and Garland noted the even greater sense of a common purpose, "Running along with all branches of the military and firefighters from all over, even overseas, was amazing. Guys who don't know you, yet see you in bunker gear [firefighting equipment] still come up like they knew you your whole life. It was shocking."

Firefighters from the Mastic Fire Department and other departments on the deck of the Three Forty Three after the TTTR.
John Garland is third from the left.
"Being a firefighter means a lot to me, just the joy and satisfaction of
helping someone is what really gets to me."

Garland's experiences at the Tower to Tunnels Run mirror his own outlook on being a firefighter, "Being a firefighter means a lot to me, just the joy and satisfaction of helping someone is what really gets to me." He plans on doing the Run again for many years to come and confirms what a life-changing experience it was, "I could honestly say that doing the Tunnel to Towers Run has been, and will be, a definite high point and unforgettable moment in my life."

For more information about the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run/Walk, the Gary Sinise Foundation, or the Building for America's Bravest program please follow their respective links.
Three Forty Three
The Three Forty Three, the FDNY vessel dedicated to the firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11

To see even more of John's photos please check out the Tunnel to Towers Run - 2012-09 set on Flickr. You can also see some short videos of the day on John's YouTube channel.

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