CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. – The Bellevue Fire Company hosted the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk Saturday morning.
The race is held in conjunction with 46 races across the country to raise funds to build specially adapted smart homes for catastrophically wounded veterans. The race is named after New York City firefighter Stephen Siller who died in the September 11th attacks.
“Steven had gone off the night shift. He heard the plane hit the North Tower, so he went back to his fire hall in Brooklyn. His team had already left so he grabbed his gear, got to the Brooklyn battery tunnel and traffic was closed. He threw on 65 lbs of gear and ran through the tunnel, started helping people, and died when the towers came down,” said Christine Babim, race co-director.
Around 500 people participated in Saturday’s race which started and ended at Bellevue’s fire hall after snaking its way through Stiglmeier Park via Como Park Boulevard. This was the second year the race was held in the Western New York area and the first year in Cheektowaga. Ms. Babim thinks the race has found a new home.
“From a director’s standpoint, I think the course is wonderful, and from a runner’s standpoint in my personal opinion, it’s flat, it’s fast, easy out and back and we have more than enough room for everybody,” added Ms. Babim.
The race was held last year in downtown Buffalo but had to move this year because First Niagara Center was unavailable.
Proceeds raised from this year’s race will help the family of Mark O’Brien. He is a marine who lost his right leg and arm during a rocket propelled grenade attack while serving in Iraq in 2004.
“My family and I already have a home, so (the foundation) decided they were going to redo everything. New hardwood floors, everything handicap accessible, completely new kitchen, the works – it’s extremely humbling,” said Mark O’Brien.
His wife Michelle, and two boys Jack and Nathan make their home in Marilla.
“As a veteran, you never really want more. We really don’t do it for any of this, and you come home, people don’t forget, and they’re there too for support, and it feels good,” added Mr. O’Brien.