NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — On Sunday, more than 30,000 runners came together for this year’s Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk, celebrating those who gave their lives to save others on Sept. 11, 2001.

A sea of humanity made its way through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. Some of them — firefighters — dressed in full gear for this year’s event, CBS2’s Marc Liverman reported.

They retraced the steps Stephen Siller, one of the 343 city firefighters killed on 9/11. Siller was on his way home from work that day when he turned back around, strapped on 60 pounds of gear and ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to Ground Zero, where he later died.

Seventeen years later, runners and first responders paid tribute to the hero and heroes of their own.

“I lost my uncle, Skip, just the other day. He was a Vietnam vet,” Newark Fire Department firefighter Greg Meehan said.

“I lost my brothers since 9/11, so I’m running this one for him,” another person said.

The run is a symbol of overcoming despite tragedy and loss. Runners crossed the finish line near where the twin towers once stood and now where One World Trade Center rises into the sky.

“When we’re pushed against a wall, there’s no country that’s stronger than us. No country that comes together more,” former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said.

It’s a race representative of a country that comes together in times of despair. Words of encouragement, high fives represent the energy.

“People saying, Come on! You can do it! So it’s so much fun,” said Patricia DiIorio of Garrison, New York.

“Positive attitudes, everybody helping everybody. If you had someone that stopped running and started walking, everybody got behind him, lifted him up,” Meehan added.

There were a lot of smiling faces, a lot of faces of determination. All of the runners knew how much of a difference they made as they took their final steps to that finish line, CBS2’s Liverman reported.

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation recently unveiled its new Gold Star family home program and said it plans to provide 1,000 homes to Gold Star families with young children.

“There are 6,951 military personnel that died since 9/11. Thousands of them that died left young families behind. We want to give them all a mortgage-free home. Every single one of them,” said Frank Siller, the chairman and CEO of the Foundation.

A massive crowd was on hand to make sure heroes like Steven are always remembered.

Sunday’s run and walk raised more than $2 million, officials said.

Frank Siller and Gold Star wife Claudia MacPherson, whose husband was killed in Afghanistan, sat down with CBS2’s Andrea Grymes and Cindy Hsu on Saturday ahead of the race.

Getting Ready To Run

Tunnel To Towers COO John Hodge

Catherine Christman, Director of Media Relations For Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation

Gold Star Wife Claudia MacPherson

Theresa Fisher, vice president of Carpet One

 

Scenes From The Route