WATCH: 30,000 Participate In Tunnel To Towers Race To Honor 9/11 First Responders, Military Veterans

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — More than 30,000 people on Sunday helped pay tribute to and raise money for 9/11 first responders and injured military veterans by participating Sunday in the 14th annual Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers race.

As CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported, the runners come out every year to support a great cause and honor a hero in the attacks of 9/11.

The 5K run and walk began at the IKEA in Red Hook, went through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and wrapped up at the World Trade Center site.

The race follows in the footsteps of fallen firefighter Stephen Siller. On Sept. 11, 2001, he worked an overnight shift at Brooklyn’s Squad 1. He was on his way to meet his brothers to play golf when the news of the World Trade Center attack came across his scanner. He turned around and grabbed his gear instead of his clubs. Traffic was halted at the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, but that didn’t deter him. Undaunted, he strapped on 60 pounds of gear and ran through the tunnel and into history. He died when the south tower collapsed.

Police banners were also mixed in for the first time this year.

“Every year it keeps on growing,” said Frank Siller, Stephen Siller’s brother. “We get bigger and better partners.”

Participating in his second Tunnel to Towers race, Kevin Trimble said it was an honor to retrace Siller’s journey.

“It’s extraordinary,” he told WCBS 880′ Sean Adams. “It’s inspiring to see people still willing to put their life on the line just to do what they had to do, and it needed to be done, so he did it.”

Trimble has sacrificed, too. The 23-year-old former soldier is a triple amputee after being injured by an IED in Afghanistan.

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, started by Siller’s family, is building him a customized home — wheelchair accessible, moving cabinets, iPad controls.

“Found a piece of land in Dallas I want to move to, working on buying that up right now and then groundbreaking,” he said. “It’s a process, but we’re moving on it.”

Matthew Sprang, a former soldier from Wisconsin, ran on his prosthetic running blades. He lost both legs below the knees in Afghanistan.

“I feel sore right now,” Sprang said. “It was long race, fun race. A lot of motivation.”

Ronny Porta, a smart home recipient, also participated it in the race.

“It’s overwhelming,” he told CBS2’s Chris Wragge before the 5K began. “To me, it’s something inspirational. I can’t wait to do this because it means so much to me. 9/11 changed my life forever. I wanted to become a Marine. I became a Marine. But this is something emotional. For me, having my brothers and sisters over here doing the run with me is amazing.”

Grant Lockwood, a West Point cadet, finished the race with his classmates.

“It was awesome,” he told 1010 WINS’ Rebecca Granet. “There was so much support. They handed out waters the whole way. We high-fived all the policemen and then all the firefighters as well, which was really cool.”

And there was a special moment. Lockwood said they were in formation during the run and his classmates all started to chanting, “USA! USA!”

Yankees great Bernie Williams, now a musician, performed at the event. He talked to CBS2’s Maurice DuBois and Kristine Johnson about the Yankees’ 2001 World Series run and how it helped galvanize the city.

“It was just something that we were clueless as of what we were doing — playing the game and what was our purpose in this whole thing,” he said. “As we started playing and as we started getting people to feel positive again about themselves and to be part of this extraordinary process of healing, we really felt we were playing for something bigger than ourselves.”

The race has raised more $50 million since it started in 2002.

“It reminds us of what happened 14 years ago on Sept. 11 and how we honor the heroes that gave their lives and the civilians, but even as importantly, we’re honoring our veterans who picked up the fight for us after Sept. 11, who volunteered to keep this country safe, who suffered severe injuries,” former FDNY Commissioner Sal Cassano told CBS2’s Vanessa Murdock.

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