Park Slope firefighter Stephen Siller left behind a wife and five young children when he raced through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel to the burning World Trade Center on 9-11, wearing 75 pounds of firefighting gear.
The Squad One smokeeater never returned home.
On Sunday, more than 25,000 runners from across the world carried the Stars and Stripes and chanted, “U.S.A.” while retracing Siller’s fearless footsteps for the 12th annual Tunnel to Towers Run. Siller’s brother Gary, and actors Gary Sinese and Steve Buscmei, championed the runners as they made their way from Red Hook to the World Trade Center.
Some, like a uniformed unit from the London Fire Brigade, crossed oceans to come and help raise money for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. The group helps gravely wounded soldiers and children who have lost a parent, much like Siller, the youngest of seven siblings whose lost both his mother and father by age 10.
Amputees, burn victims, and paraplegics in recumbent bicycles kept pace with the human river of support raging towards the finish line for post-run ceremonies, featuring a free concert by Sinese’s band, Gary Sinese and the Lt. Dan Band.
First-time participant Steve Cornella, a volunteer firefighter from New Jersey, said he was astonished by the turnout.
“I was amazed at how many people signed up for this,” he said. “I saw kids from 4 years old to people in their 80s, including some on crutches and in wheelchairs.”
Cornella promised to return with his buddies next year.