Record number of West Point cadets run Tunnel to Towers
September 28, 2011
WEST POINT, N.Y., Sept. 28, 2011 -- Many people can tell you what they were doing on that clear Tuesday morning when the first plane hit the first tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. Sept. 11, 2001. Sixteen minutes later, a second plane hit the second tower. The total number of people killed in New York City was 2,819 including 343 firefighters.
It has been 10 years since that fateful day and ever since New York and other municipalities around the country honor the memory of Stephen Siller and other first responders.
Siller was an off-duty firefighter who just completed an overnight shift and was fighting the New York traffic to get home. He was stuck in the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel when he heard the news on his dispatch radio of planes hitting the World Trade Center.
He abandoned his truck, strapped 60 pounds of gear onto his back and ran from the tunnel to the burning Trade Center. He was last seen near Ground Zero at Liberty and West Streets.
Since that day, the Tunnel to Towers annual run from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the end of the race route at Liberty and West Streets honors Siller and the 342 firefighters who lost their lives trying to save others.
Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of the Tunnel to Towers Run, which this year saw nearly 30,000 runners and walkers including 1,800 cadets and 80 runners from the United States Military Academy Preparatory School.
"We had a brigade-size element this year running," Class of 2012 Cadet Max Mcdonnell, brigade planner who ran the race for the first time this year, said.
The cadets learn about the run through word of mouth around the planning stages in early August of every year.
"The cadets will run around talking to other cadets about the run or talk to cadets who have run before," Mcdonnell said. "This event grows every year."
Class of 2012 Cadet Noelle Kerr also helped in the planning of the cadet run and has run the Tunnel to Towers before.
"I ran during my plebe year," she said. "I wanted to see New York and couldn't think of a better way to see it than to commemorate 9/11 with the Tunnel to Towers Run."
The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, a charity organization that runs several programs including supporting burn centers and building homes for surviving quadriplegic servicemen returning from combat and provides scholarships to children who lost a parent, hosts the Tunnel to Towers Run.
It is a nationwide run with many municipalities around the country hosting 5K runs to honor those who have fallen in the line of duty.
Dignitaries at the run included comedian Dennis Miller, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, chairman of the Tunnel to Towers Run, and actor Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band.
Racers ran with flags, firefighters ran in uniforms, friends and family members held photos of lost FDNY members.
Nintey-two cadets held American flags along the streets while runners raced past them often slapping hands in a show of solidarity -- and remembrance.
After the Tunnel to Towers Run, cadets spoke about the full encompassing experience they had, especially afterward with the emotional atmosphere surrounding the site of the 9/11 Memorial.
Class of 2014 Cadet Richard Dulce was inspired to see firemen running in full gear to honor their fallen comrades. It was all about people being "a part of something bigger than themselves."
The Corps of Cadets went from ecstatic after the run to a somber feel as they walked through the memorial site.
"It was a huge part of why we joined up," Dulce said. "I honestly think it was the most patriotic experience I've ever been a part of. It was surreal thinking about 10 years ago and what happened at that exact place."
Class of 2012 Cadet Kirby Kastner viewed the names of every person who died at the World Trade Center, as she and all the cadets who participated in the run walked around to experience the site.
"(It was) really moving to think that those buildings were there just 10 short years ago," Kastner said. "We were really grateful to see the memorial because a lot of people come to West Point because of what happened on 9/11."
(Editor's Note: Staff Sgt. Matthew Leary, West Point Public Affairs, contributed to this story)