For the second year in a row I ran the Tunnel 2 Towers race for the Stephen Siller Foundation. Last year I ran with my folks, but this year I am proud to say I ran with a team of my coworkers sponsored by Myriad as part of our charitable giving initiative.
Our team ran this race along with 30,000 other participants. I was very concerned we would not be able to find each other in the crowds. It was an unexpected surprise that our team was in Wave A. I thought only the fastest people would be in this wave, people who asked to be in the fast group. I know no one declared a time goal when we signed up, in fact one of our teammates is even pregnant and was anticipating a rather slow time for that reason. It was very exciting to be right up front, but a couple people chose to hang back a bit- smart.
I arrived early, as did my teammate Nathan and we asked our crew to all meet us at the start in our wave. I asked people to arrive no later than 9 for a 9:30 start time, but with security checks and bag check that was short sighted of me. We all made it in time for the start but next year I’ll be asking people to arrive by 8:30 for a less stressful experience. While I do have some criticisms of their security (which I’ll get to next) this race is shockingly well organized and started right on time.
The security at this race doesn’t make a lot of sense. As you enter the corrals from the rear you pass through a small security checkpoint where if you have a bag, or even a tiny little fanny pack visible you will be sent back. I was sent back for my tiny little Fitletic belt and made to check it. Same goes for your phone… you cannot have your phone visible when you pass security, even headphone wires will be a problem… That said, you are 100% allowed to have these things once you pass through security! You just can’t let this one volunteer in charge of security see them. You are even told as you approach to hide your phone by other volunteers and as soon as you pass them it is totally fine to just pull it back out. No one else will stop you… This makes no sense and creates a confusing bottle neck for people who are trying to get to the start and even more stress for people who are trying to find each other.
I totally get the need for security at an event like this, but given that literally everyone brings their phone and people working for the race tell you outright to just hide it when you pass that one lady at the first security check, they would be smart to do away with this policy and replace it with one they plan to enforce.
The race itself is incredible. Once the start is announced you are very quickly running into the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. The tunnel is about 1.8 miles long, and while you might expect the air quality to present a problem for runners, the air is surprisingly well circulated. As we descended into the tunnel a chant of ‘USA! USA! USA!’ began from the crowd. This chant would be taken up again a few times over the course of the tunnel. People of all ages and abilities, some in their red white and blue America themed outfits ran along side Firefighters in all their gear and military people running in formation, some carrying flags or wearing the photos of the loved one they lost on 9/11/2001.
This race commemorates the run of Stephen Siller on that day. From the website of the Stephen Siller Foundation this is his story:
Firefighter Stephen Gerard Siller was the youngest of seven children born to Mae and George Siller. At the age of eight, Stephen lost his father, and a year and a half later his mother passed away, leaving him an orphan to be raised by his older siblings. For a while Stephen went through a period of struggle, but thanks to the love of his siblings, and the values instilled in him by his parents, he grew up to be an extraordinary individual and dedicated firefighter. More than most, he knew that time was precious and accomplished much in his 34 years.
On September 11, 2001, Stephen, 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 over his scanner of a plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Upon hearing the news, Stephen called his wife Sally and asked her to tell his brothers he would catch up with them later. He returned to Squad 1 to get his gear.
Stephen drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but it had already been closed for security purposes. Determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 lbs. of gear to his back, and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he gave up his life while saving others.
Stephen had everything to live for; a great wife, five wonderful children, a devoted extended family, and friends. Stephen’s parents were lay Franciscans and he grew up under the guiding philosophy of St. Francis of Assisi, whose encouraging and inspirational phrase “while we have time, let us do good” were words that Stephen lived by. Stephen’s life and heroic death serve as a reminder to us all to live life to the fullest and to spend our time here on earth doing good – this is his legacy.
When we emerge from the tunnel there are Firefighters in their dress blues wearing photos of their fallen comrades around their necks, holding their hands out to high five us. There are so many my arm gets tired and my shoulder is sore when I pass the last one, but no way can I skip anyone! Gotta high five them all!
The sight of the Freedom Tower that stands in place of the World Trade Center gets me choked up. I think about how beautiful it is and mentally compare what I am seeing to what Stephen would have seen as he emerged from the tunnel in 2001. Crying makes you run faster.
There are cheerleaders and school marching bands and crowds cheering. Maybe I am tired but I cannot be walking while I go by a cheer-leading squad! My team was full of super FAST people. Three of our team members finished the 3.5 mile course in around 27 minutes, 10 minutes faster than me at 37:02. I could not be more proud of my team!
This is a race I plan to do every year going forward and it sounds like my company is on board to have another team next year. I already can’t wait.