Despite COVID-19, the annual Tunnel to Towers 5K and Stair Climb in Biloxi was still able to go on.
Nineteen years ago, Brooklyn Firefighter Stephen Siller was just finishing up his shift and was on his way to play golf with his brothers when word of a plane hitting the north tower of the World Trade Center came over his scanner.
Siller called his wife and asked her to tell his brothers he would catch up with them later; he needed to go help at what would eventually become Ground Zero. Co-Director Justin Lopez said, “And he went back to his firehouse. Didn’t have– his crew had already left. So, he grabbed his gear, went back. Tunnels were closed. He couldn’t get through the tunnels. So, he parked right there at the foot of the tunnel, for security reasons. Put his gear on, 60 pounds, and went through the tunnel running.”
Siller lost his life in the south tower while trying to save others. The Tunnel to Towers Foundation 5K symbolizes Siller’s trek through what is formerly known as the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the site of the Twin Towers.
Several participants of Biloxi’s sixth Tunnel to Towers 5K Saturday paid homage to those first responders who gave their lives to help during the attacks of 9/11 by wearing gear during the run and stair climb, including a crew from the Husser Volunteer Fire Department in Louisiana. Volunteer Firefighter Rona Burkett said, “We just wanted to honor the fallen firefighters from 9/11. As firefighters ourselves, we understand what they might have possibly gone through, so we just wanted to honor them.”
The second part of the Tunnel to Towers 5K is the stair climb. Participants climb 22 floors of the Margaritaville Resort five times for a total of 110 stories, the same number of stories as each of the Twin Towers in the World Trade Center. Volunteer Firefighter Dustin McDonald said, “You know, anybody that is public service or is involved in this, fire service, police service, EMS, what not, should definitely do this at least once, with gear or without. It’s just an experience, something that you can’t describe or explain. It’s something that you kinda, not necessarily– you’re not in their shoes because you don’t know what they went through, but it kinda brings you to a place where you can understand a little better.”
Next year, the Biloxi Tunnel to Towers 5K and Stair Climb is scheduled to land on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.