FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker honored the fallen of the 9-11 terrorist attacks during its Stephen Siller Memorial Tunnel to Towers Walk led by the Directorate of Public Safety Sept. 11.
Post leadership and DPS personnel led the walk on its almost 2 ½-mile route while Fort Rucker community members and first responders from local agencies joined in to help memorialize and honor the memories of those who gave their lives that day, according to Lt. Col. Phillip Lenz, DPS director.
“It’s a day that changed us as a nation, changed what we do in the military and it changed what we do specifically as first responders,” Lenz said. “When you look at the sacrifices of Stephen Siller, the things he did, I think they speak to his sense of duty, his loyalty and really his dedication to the overall mission of his lifelong quest of saving people.
“Not everyone can do that, but I think that’s truly endemic of the overall culture of the first responder community – it’s what we do, it’s what we get paid to do and it’s something we’re incredibly passionate about,” he added.
DPS personnel passed out laminated tags on neck chains with photos of first responders who lost their lives that day for walk participants to wear during the event, according to Lonny Keen, Fort Rucker Fire Department chief.
“This event is good for our people, it’s good for everyone,” the chief said. “Usually we invite the public out here and we have a stair climb (in Bldg. 5700), but with the pandemic, we had to tone things down this year.”
But the toned down nature of the event did nothing to dull the edge of remembrance, Lenz said.
“Siller was the true embodiment of selfless service, bravery and duty to something greater than one’s self,” the director said. “This event is about many things, and although it’s called the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Walk, it’s not about one individual. The heroic acts of Stephen Siller represent the larger body of America’s first responders – police officers, security officers, emergency medical technicians and paramedics, and, of course, we cannot forget our 9-1-1 dispatchers – and what we’re required to do each and every day.”
The event’s namesake, Siller, was a firefighter in Brooklyn who had just got off of his shift and was driving to meet his brothers for a game of golf when he got the call that a plane had hit the North Tower, according to Chris Quattlebaum, firefighter at Fire Station No. 1 and one of the organizers of the annual event.
“On his way back to the towers, he was stopped at the tunnel,” the firefighter said during the ceremony. “He then ran with over 60 pounds of gear on his back to the World Trade Center – the last place Stephen was ever seen. Today, we walk approximately the same distance Stephen ran back to the towers and honor him and everyone else who lost their lives on that tragic day.”
While speaking to media at the event, Quattlebaum said the 19th anniversary of the attacks brought back memories of what he was doing that day and how it affected his future.
“I was in high school when it came over the news, and my life really changed that day,” he said. “At that time, I didn’t know what I was going to do, so I decided to join the military and become a firefighter.”
Lenz added that the event was about even more than memorializing the almost 3,000 people who perished in the attacks 19 years ago.
“That was a day that for all of us will forever live in infamy,” Lenz said. “The reality of this event is about the undying American spirit, the patriotism, and the unity and coming together for a common cause – and, let’s be honest, that is something right now that America could use a lot of. Today, we do this for those who died on that tragic day and the surviving families of these true heroes.”