911 Tunnel to Towers Memorial Run
Finally an event with the complete absence of ultra-partisan politics. How comforting it was to enjoy an American experience that connected us all instead of dividing. For over a decade now I have been avoiding the Tunnel to Towers Run due to the memories it drudges up. Being a 911 survivor and reluctant responder who loves doing Fun Runs and Memorial Runs I always manged to make excuses for not attending. The idea to recreate the historic moments before Firefighter Stephen Siller made his run from his Brooklyn Firehouse through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center was pure genius. The journey was well over 3 miles and he did it with full gear on. That was to be Stephens last day and that of his entire Firehouse God Bless them all.
By taking this heartbreaking moment and turning it into this exhilarating patriotic experience it gives comfort to those who suffered directly and even those who did not. Someone like myself was skeptical at first and thought it was just a bunch of people getting other people together for some hidden agenda but to my delight I was entirely wrong. When I got to the starting point in Brooklyn and saw Cops , Firefighters, Veterans, families and every branch of military I knew this is special …and indeed it was.
After being politically active on all things concerning 911 - Rebuilding Ground Zero, the moving of the KSM trials and the most controversial the building of the Ground Zero Mosque- it felt good to put the sword down and just pay tribute to those lost and to a brighter future ahead for their friends and family. Eleven years ago a group of fanatics took from me what can never be replaced – someone whose smile could light up a city and whose warmth could melt the Polar ice caps. Not only was the girl I fell in love with as a 14 year old bus boy gone but so was many of my schoolmates and fellow construction workers. All incinerated and for what? Trying to make sense of that I’m afraid I will take to the grave.
As I was stretching and packing my backpack I could not believe the volume of runners. Later that day it was reported over 40k participants. How would we fit in the Tunnel all at once? Well fit we did and it was incredible. It was indeed a battle running in that tube but that’s what made it great. As my friend Lawrence and myself fought through to the top teir runners we came upon a division of troops running to their military chants. The Unit Commander noticed we were in his group and yelled Fall In ladies!! How cool! We began doing the soldiers chants along with our heros who protect us and to say I was honored would be a gross understatement. Left- Left- Left -Right Left! U S C G ! United States Coast Guard ! This was amazing I felt as though Father Time paid me a visit and erased decades of ” Wear and Tear” from this beat up old body of mine. The feeling of privilege was overwhelming. Suddenly we heard ” Ten Hut” we stopped and jogged in place wondering what happened. Everything got eerily quiet and I noticed that the runners were looking at something behind me. It was a group of the physically challenged and amputees all with stern looks of determination and moving with great purpose. The silence then turned to thunderous applause. It got so loud I feared that the tiles on the walls would begin to pop off. Next time I complain about some petty nonsense and start feeling sorry for myself may I remember this moment always. We began jogging again and I was feeling mighty and wanted to push myself further so I yelled to the Sergeant ” Permission to be dismissed” he looked at me and smiled ” Permission granted”.
Finally there it was the proverbial light at the end of the Tunnel. As I exited the crowds were deafening with cheers. To my left all lined up along the runners track were West Point Cadets holding Old Glory proud and strong to my right were New York’s Bravest the NYFD. Several hundreds of Firemen holding flags with the picture of each and every Firemen who perished that day. They were cheering us on wildly and giving us high fives what a great moment and then… there it was up ahead Freedom Tower. Almost to the “Topping off ” stage built with such craftsmanship and strength if a plane hit this building it would bounce off it.
As I walked along the West Side Highway feeling elated about the entire morning I remembered that day 11 years ago after working on the Bucket Brigade for at least a dozen hours covered in ash and remains. People along the streets were holding up home made signs saying We Love You and Thank you and God Bless You. Sometimes the demonstrators would run up and just hug you and tell us what we were doing was so important not just for the city but for the nation. This time period in our country’s history was magical. Never before were we so truly united as a nation. A pity it took something so tragic to get us there. Wouldn’t it be great to just get together on our own without it being a national crisis? So much noise out there on the extreme sides of both parties and all it does is creates acromony and leaves the center frustrated and apathetic. There must be a better way . Please enjoy the videos: