The Southampton, Hampton Bays, East Quogue, Sag Harbor, North Sea and Westhampton Beach fire departments sent their bravest into New York City this weekend for the annual Tunnel to Towers 5K.
The race honors the legacy of New York City firefighter Stephen Siller, who gave his life on 9/11, and supports the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which “continues to honor the 343 fallen firefighters, as well as those veterans that have paid the ultimate price in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Siller had recently gotten off work at Squad 1 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, when he heard of the attack on the Twin Towers. He drove back to join his company, but when he reached the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, it was already closed to traffic. Siller strapped his 60 pounds of gear to his back and ran through the tunnel to the World Trade Center site. In memory of his historic run, the Tunnel to Towers 5K takes participants from the Ikea parking look in Red Hook, through the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel to Ground Zero. The 5K supports the Weill-Cornell Burn Center and burn centers across the U.S., as well as restoring “shattered lives by building homes for survivingquadriplegic servicemen returning from combat.”
“It was a very well put on event,” said Jay Baucum, safety officer and public relations representative for the Hampton Bays Fire Department, who ran the race for the first time this year and plans to do it again in 2014. Fifty-five members of the Hampton Bays and East Quogue departments traveled into the city together for the race this year.
The race kicked off on Sunday morning, with handicapped, wounded warriors and military personnel heading out first. Teams of firefighters, many wearing full gear, were next, and civilians followed. “The most moving part of the race was going through the tunnel,” Baucum said. “You don’t realize that it’s 1.9 miles long.” In tribute to their comrades, New York City firefighters line the path from the tunnel exit to the towers.