Honor first responders at 9/11 5k in Bristol

Local firefighter organizes tribute fundraiser


BRISTOL — The Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk Series was created to honor the heroic life and death of Stephen Siller, a New York City firefighter (FDNY) who lost his life on September 11, 2001 after strapping on his gear and running through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers. The Rhode Island edition of the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk Series will take place Sunday, Sept. 11 at Colt State Park in Bristol.

Event organizer Gordon Simard was moved by the story and sacrifice of Stephen Siller, "I personally was drawn to this race and organization, when I came back from a deployment in Afghanistan in 2013" Mr. Simard said. Stephen Siller instantly became my hero when I heard this story, having been a volunteer firefighter in Warren prior to being hired on Tiverton Fire Department in 2014."

Firefighter Stephen Gerard Siller was the youngest of seven children born to Mae and George Siller. At the age of eight, Stephen lost his father, and a year and a half later he also lost his mother, which left him an orphan to be raised by his older siblings. For a while Stephen went through a period of struggle, but thanks to the love of his siblings, and the values instilled in him by his parents, he grew up to be an extraordinary individual and dedicated firefighter. More than most, he knew that time was precious and accomplished much in his 34 years.

On September 11, 2001, Stephen, who was assigned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1, had just finished his shift, and was on his way to play golf with his brothers when he got word of the first plane hitting the Twin Towers over his scanner. Upon hearing the news, Stephen called his wife Sally and asked her to tell his brothers he would catch up with them later, and returned to Squad 1 to get his gear.

Stephen drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but it had already been closed for security purposes. Determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 lbs. of gear to his back, and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he gave up his life while saving others.

Stephen had everything to live for; a great wife, five wonderful children, a devoted extended family, and friends. Stephen’s parents were lay Franciscans and he grew up under the guiding philosophy of St. Francis of Assisi, whose encouraging and inspirational phrase “while we have time, let us do good” were words that Stephen lived by. Stephen’s life and heroic death serve as a reminder to us all to live life to the fullest and to spend our time here on earth doing good – this is his legacy.

The Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk series has grown by leaps and bounds. Over 30 events will be held throughout the nation in 2016! Our signature event, the annual Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk in New York City, which is held on the last Sunday in September, started with 1,500 people in 2002 and attracted over 25,000 last year. Retracing Stephen’s last footsteps has become symbolic of the “Let us do Good” attitude of all participants. Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walks have been held around the world, including London and Afghanistan.

Proceeds from the events are used by the Foundation to support programs which honor our first responders and military personnel who make extraordinary sacrifices in the line of duty, including the Building for America’s Bravest program.

Event information: https://www.crowdrise.com/T2TRhodeIsland2016

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.