September 30th marks the 11th annual Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Run, a day when people around the world come together to run in the footsteps of a hero, celebrate the lives of those who died on 9/11 and join forces to do good. On 9/11, 34-year-old F.F. Stephen Siller had the day off. When he heard the first plane had hit the World Trade Center, he raced to his firehouse, threw on 60 pounds of equipment and drove to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel which he ran through on foot. He was last seen on West Street and like so many others, never made it home. Stephen’s siblings started the Tunnel to Towers Run as a memorial tribute to his heroism. Funds raised through the T2T support the NYC Firefighter Burn Center, scholarship programs for children who have lost parents in Iraq and Afghanistan and the construction of Smart Homes for military returning home with devastating injuries, as well as several other charities. By Corey Whelan.
Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Run
Begins at IKEA Parking Lot
1 Beard St.
Brooklyn, NY 11231
Despite the seriousness of the work made possible through this 5K event, you will have a raucous good time with around 30,000 people from all walks of life and ages participating. Leading the race will be the Wounded Warriors, followed by thousands of West Point cadets. Firefighters from around the country and the world attend every year. All branches of the military are represented and the NYPD and FDNY will be out in full force.
Pre-registration is strongly advised and required if you want a timing chip. The registration fee is $50 for runners and walkers until September 24th and $75 afterwards. Children under the age of 12 run for free. Timing chips are an additional $10 regardless of your registration date. You can register online, by mail or in person. Registration packets can be picked up in advance or on race day. Day-of registration is allowed but expect long lines and don’t be late; the race starts promptly at 9:30 a.m. If you are planning on race-day registration, make sure to get to the IKEA Parking Lot at 1 Beard Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn no later than 8 a.m. Backpacks cannot be worn during the race but UPS supplies complimentary transport of small personal items from the start to finish lines.
Same-day registration and bib pick-up start at 7:30 a.m. in the IKEA Parking Lot. Free shuttle buses are available at two locations in Manhattan: West and Liberty Streets on the west side and Pier 11 (at the end of Wall Street) on the east side. Free water taxis are also available at Pier 11. You must get in line for buses and water taxis no later than 7:30 a.m. Parking is available near the finish line (fee charged) at the Liberty and West Street location. Cars will not be permitted to park in the IKEA lot, so don’t drive to Brooklyn unless you want to search for a spot on the street.
It’s not easy to get to the start line by subway. You can take the F or G train to the Carroll Street station but you’ll have about a 30-minute walk to IKEA. The B 61 bus goes straight there but will be running on a Sunday schedule. However you get there, it will be worth it. The adrenaline of the crowd is exhilarating and immediate.
People start to line up around 8:30 a.m. Service dogs are the only animals allowed and strollers or wheels of any kind are prohibited. At around 9 a.m., there will be some speeches and the “National Anthem” will be sung. White doves will take flight and before you know it, you’ll be racing towards the Tunnel. Iron mounds rescued from Ground Zero anchor the mouth of the tunnel and everyone jumps up to high-five the banner at the official start line.You’ll be running with thousands of people but once you get into the tunnel, it’s surprisingly quiet. Throbbing music starts to pipe in as you get a little farther towards the middle and eventually you’ll hear the Army team chanting in unison. As excitement builds, so does the sound of everyone racing to the finish line.You can’t really feel it when you’re driving, but on foot you’ll notice that the tunnel becomes steep and slants uphill about halfway in. It gets a little harder then, but just when you feel like your chest is going to explode, you’ll hear the sound of bagpipes and see sunlight. When you burst out of the tunnel, the first thing you’ll lay eyes on is the Freedom Tower and a crowd of firefighters proudly holding up posters of the FDNY’s fallen. There will also be a water station, but you’re not at the finish line yet. The race continues in Siller’s footsteps up the Battery Park Esplanade where countless New Yorkers on land and boat will be cheering you on. High-school bands and cheerleading squads will be performing. Finally, the finish line and another banner to leap up and touch will be in sight.
The After Party
Water and fruit will be waiting for you at the finish line but keep following the crowd and land in the best after party ever. Your first stop should be the Dunkin’ Donuts booth. Coffee never tasted so good. Then, nab your race tee shirt (included in the registration fee) before they run out of your size. Tons of restaurants set up booths and hand out unlimited amounts of free food. Linger over a great selection of post-run favorites like wings, burgers and pasta from local restaurants like Suspender’s, Fino Wall Street and Moran’s while listening to Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band. Free post-run massages are also available to soothe sore calves and feet. Keg beer can be bought up and down the street and activities for kids like face painting make the Tunnel to Towers after party an integral part of the day’s experience. As soon as it’s over, you’ll be counting the days until next year’s race.
Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.