Bright and early on the morning of Sunday, September 18, 2016, firefighters, elite climbers, and everyday individuals from New York’s Capital Region gathered at Corning Tower to honor first responders and military heroes at the Tunnel to Towers Tower Climb in Albany.
Participants were greeted by energetic volunteers, as well as generous donations of coffee, juice, donuts, and bagels from local sponsors, as they waited their turn to climb the 42 flights of stairs. Everyone was in great spirits as they took on a challenge that holds such deep meaning to our country – especially as we recently marked the 15th Anniversary of September 11, 2001.
Many of the participants were volunteer firefighters from the area – each dressed in bunker gear weighing roughly 75 pounds. They were eager to follow in the footsteps of Stephen Siller and hundreds of first responders who climbed the stairwells in the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. The strong connection that first responders share could be seen as each of the neighboring local fire departments interacted. There was some healthy, spirited competition among the various departments!
The event began with an opening ceremony featuring the national anthem, a prayer, words of encouragement, and most touching of all, some words from Tech Sgt. Joe Wilkinson, a smart home recipient from the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation’s Building for America’s Bravest program. Joe told the crowd how much the smart home has meant to his family and thanked everyone for their support. He made reference to the independence that the home has given him. The opportunity to see and hear Joe in-person enabled participants to better understand how fundraising through these events is essential, as it supports the effort to build smart homes for our nation’s most catastrophically injured service members.
Soon after, the climbers were on their way up! Volunteers encouraged each participant along the way, and the walls of the stairwells were filled with encouraging posters. Most inspiring was watching the firefighters climb in their gear. As a participant, you could imagine what the stairs looked like on September 11, 2001 as brave first responders climbed up the Twin Towers while others were attempting to escape harm’s way. It was very emotional thinking about the sacrifices that these men and women make each day to keep our communities and our country safe. The stairwells of Coring Tower were nothing but inspirational that morning.
Upon reaching the top, climbers were greeted with water and bananas, and Tech. Sgt. Wilkinson presented each with a commemorative medal. While climbers thanked Joe for his service, Joe thanked first responders for what they do each and every day, and thanked participants for supporting the cause. It was very powerful and touching to see Joe and the first responders thanking one another. The spirit of our first responders and military is stronger than ever 15 years after the attacks on our nation. The images of the Albany Tower Climb are proof of the strength and gratitude of the American people.
The day was a tremendous, patriotic experience! You could see the pride exuding from each participant, knowing that he or she honored our first responders and military heroes.
We could not be more appreciative of our Race Director, Keeran Shumway, and her group of volunteers known as Stephen’s Squad. Your hard work and dedication resulted in a successful event! Funds were raised to support the mission of the Foundation, and, once again, you kept the memory of those lost on September 11, 2001 alive! Congratulations, Albany!
Thank you to all of our participants! You were all fantastic and your enthusiasm was contagious! You should be proud of the good that you have done. We look forward to seeing you all again in 2017!
If you would like to get involved with next year’s Tunnel to Towers Tower Climb in 2017, please reach out to Albany@tunnel2towers.org. We would love to hear from you!
“Let Us Do Good”