The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation is excited to announce that our T2T family is growing! We are expanding our Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk series across the country, and meeting some great new members of what we call “Stephen’s Squad” along the way. With the 15th Anniversary of September 11, 2001 on the horizon, we could not think of a better time to be expanding on our mission to “never forget” while “doing good.”
We would like to introduce you to Jeanne Ryan, our volunteer Race Director for the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk in Amherst, Massachusetts. Below you will find Jeanne’s story and information about this new and exciting event in her own words. Like us, we hope you will be motivated by Jeanne’s passion and get out to there to “do good”!
This year marks the 15th Anniversary of the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001. In an effort to focus our community’s attention on the power of one person to “do good” I am bringing a Tunnel to Towers Run/Walk to Amherst.
On September 11th, 2001, I was living in Park Slope, Brooklyn with my spouse, Marjory, our nine-year-old son Jack, and our five-year old daughter, Allie. Stephen Siller was a firefighter in Squad 1, our neighborhood fire station. After dropping my kids off at their local public school on that fateful day, I headed off to catch a train for a meeting in Manhattan. Trains headed into Manhattan were not running so I headed for the safety of home to see what was going on. Stephen Siller did just the opposite.
Stephen had just completed his shift at Squad 1 and was on his way to play golf with his three brothers. As soon as he heard the news of the first plane hitting the Twin Towers, Stephen returned to Squad 1 to get his gear and headed to the World Trade Center to meet up with his squad. He drove his truck to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and when he arrived, the tunnel was closed for security purposes. Stephen then grabbed his 60 pounds of gear and raced on foot through the tunnel to the towers. This path would come to be Stephen’s final steps. In Stephen’s memory, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation was established to follow in his footsteps and to “do good,” by making a positive and lasting impact in the lives of others. Every year thousands of runners and walkers participate in the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk in New York City, honoring Stephen’s memory and final act of doing good, by following in his footsteps from Brooklyn, through the Tunnel, to the footprint of the Twin Towers.
As the 15th Anniversary of 9/11/2001 approaches, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation is hoping to bring memorial runs to various parts of the United States. As a participant in the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk in NYC in 2015, I have been asked to bring this event to Amherst. Therefore, I am asking for your help to make our Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk one which is inclusive of all members of our community and represents the best intentions of all of us to “do good.” I am calling the event the Amherst Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk. The purpose of the 2016 5K Run & Walk is to:
- Bring together a diverse group of people to remember a solemn day: events on that day will include: 3.1 mile run/walk to begin at 9:59 am on 9/11—the time the first tower fell.
- Interfaith Service, Sunday, late afternoon 9/11/16.
- Counter anti-Muslim sentiment and xenophobia prevalent at many 9/11 memorials.
- Honor First Responders in our community for their service.
- Remember those whose lives were lost on 9/11.
- Remember the acts of goodness done on 9/11 and all other days since then.
- Raise funds to build specially adapted smart homes for our nation’s most catastrophically injured service members.
In the process of planning and carrying out these events, I will be organizing a committee comprising diverse groups from the committee: interfaith members, police, fire, students, etc. By planning the event together, we can create an environment where communities of diverse backgrounds can participate in remembering 9/11/2001. Everyone was affected, but many communities do not feel welcome at traditional 9/11 memorial events. This is our unity run and our way of showing how we “do good” in Amherst.
I have already received approval from the Amherst PD and UMASS PD to conduct this event on 9/11/16. The staging area for the Run & Walk, and end point of the Run & Walk will be at the North Station Amherst Fire House on East Pleasant Street. The Run & Walk will start opposite the Sylvan Residential Complex on Eastman Lane in UMASS. The route will turn right onto North Pleasant, right onto Pine Street and right onto East Pleasant Street, ending at the Firehouse. I believe our Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk will be a great success on many levels.
I have a few very personal reasons for wanting to bring this event to Amherst. Number one, I left New York after 9/11 after losing friends and family in the towers. My brother-in-law, Kenny Watson, was one of the 343 firefighters killed. We were lucky because they found his body and we buried him on 11/9/2001. We moved to Amherst in August of 2002, and this community has mostly been a haven of safety for my family. Finally, in March of 2011, just six months after graduating from Amherst Regional High School, my then 18-year-old son, Jack, decided to return to New York to pursue his dream of becoming a member of the New York City Fire Department (better known as the FDNY). He joined a volunteer firehouse on Long Island, trained to be an EMT, and took the EMT exam for the FDNY/EMS Service. Now, in March 2016, almost five years to the day after my son left Amherst, Jack will graduate from the FDNY/ EMS Academy, and join the ranks of those like Stephen Siller. I can’t help but think Stephen Siller blazed a trail for my son to follow from Amherst to New York. Thank you, Stephen, for making a positive and lasting impact on the lives of so many.
Thank you, Jeanne, for sharing your story and volunteering to spread Stephen’s story while ensuring that we “never forget” and honor the sacrifices of our first responders and military heroes. We are so excited about the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk in Amherst, and welcome you to our T2T family! Your commitment and dedication to our cause is much appreciated!
Congratulations to Jack on graduating from the FDNY/EMS Academy! We wish him all the best in his career!
For more information about the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk in Amherst, please email Jeanne at Amherst@tunnel2towers.org.