Running For a Purpose: Annual Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk

by SHANNON GLEBA, Copy Editor

Last month marked the seventeenth year since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. On that day, many ordinary citizens of the United States of America became heroes as they fought to overcome anguish and to form a country founded on resiliency.

One of the heroes of that day was Firefighter Stephen Gerard Siller. On the morning when the planes hit the Twin Towers, Siller was on his way to play golf after leaving his shift at Brooklyn Squad 1 when he heard of the attacks. He attempted to drive to Manhattan through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel after collecting his gear from the firehouse, however the tunnel had been shut down for security. As a result, he courageously put on his 60 pounds of gear and ran through the tunnel, was picked up by another group of firefighters and entered the Twin Towers where he tragically lost his life, leaving behind a wife and five children.

In order to honor the life of Siller and the lives of the other brave service members, in 2002 the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation began organizing the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run/Walk. The course begins right before the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel (formerly Brooklyn Battery Tunnel) and ends at the site of the former Twin Towers. In its first year, the run garnered support from 1,500 participants and has multiplied in size, with over 30,000 runners this year. The run traces the steps of Stephen Siller and works to honor all of the first responders and civilians who lost their lives in the senseless act of terror.

This year, many student-athletes of MC joined Team Shamrock, a fundraising group headed by Kathy Robertson Cunningham. Cunningham lost her brother Donald Robertson on 9/11 and strove to find a way to honor him. As a result, she teamed up with the Tunnel to Towers 5K where she formed Team Shamrock. All funds raised by the group go to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation which supports to the Smart Home Program, building technologically-advanced homes for injured service members.

Cunningham’s daughter Kaitlyn ‘16 attended MC and played on the women’s lacrosse team, so Kathy reached out to the team a number of years ago to get involved and the Jaspers’ participation has skyrocketed ever since.

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Many Manhattan College students participated in the Tunnels to Towers 5K Run & Walk on Sept. 30 JACLYN LEIGHTON / COURTESY

On Sept. 30, my teammates and I on the women’s rowing team, along with many other teams, participated in the 5K race to show our support for Robertson and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation as a whole.

After traveling from Riverdale to Brooklyn, I was met with an event larger than I had ever anticipated. With runners clad in American flag apparel, patriotism could be felt in every sense of the word. After finding our way to the start line, we stood among many men and women, including firemen in full gear. After the opening ceremony, the horn sounded and we were on our way to through the tunnel. While passing through the tunnel, participants excitedly chanted “USA! USA!” and the crowd pushed on.

After exiting the tunnel, the streets were lined with NYPD and NYFD members holding photos of service members who had fallen on 9/11. While passing the servicemen, I was surprised and honored to hear them say thank you to the runners, when they selflessly give up their safety each day. After high-fiving the policemen and firemen, my energy was restored and I continued the run. Nearing the finish line, young cheerleaders and marching bands encouraged my fellow runners and me and we were greeted by the sight of the finish line with the Freedom Tower in the background.

The 5K experience was unlike any I have ever had. Running beside firemen in 60 pounds of gear, military members, Jaspers, and fellow Americans, I was filled with hope. When reading the news, it is common to be left in a feeling of despair. However, the Tunnel to Towers Run confirmed the fact that resiliency and love are very much still alive in the USA.

I believe that anyone who has the opportunity to attend the Tunnel to Towers 5K should. There is so much comradery between runners and heroes that make our country great and we should honor those who make sacrifices everyday. I look forward to attending the 5K next year and hope to see even more Jaspers at the starting line.

Editor’s Note: Shannon Gleba is a copy editor of The Quadrangle and a sophomore. The views expressed in this article are hers, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Manhattan College, The Quadrangle or its Editorial Board.