MEDINA - Out of that gut-wrenching day 9/11/2001, comes the good stuff of the Stephen Siller Family Foundation and the Tunnel 2 Towers Run.
Since that day the towers crashed down and heroes rose up, has been 15 years of runners across the country collectively saying to veterans and first responders, “We've got your back because you had ours."
The T2T run is 3 miles. Some firefighters run it every year in full gear, just like *off duty* New York firefighter Stephen Siller, a father of 5, did 15 years ago.
On Sunday, from the Medina race, T2T Race Director, Mark Phillips explains how Tunnel 2 Towers was born.
"Stephen Siller was a NYC firefighter. 15 years ago today he had left work, off-duty, on his way to play golf with his brothers when he heard about the plane hitting the World Trade Center towers. He then turned his vehicle around. When he couldn’t get through traffic in the Brooklyn-Battery tunnel, he grabbed all of his about 60 pounds of fire gear out of his car and ran through the tunnel to the World Trade Center. Hence, The Tunnel 2 Tower foundation was born out of that tragedy,” said Phillips.
Stephen Siller never came home.
So, they run, in Siller’s name, and in the name of every hero who rushed in and didn’t come home.
Each runner has the picture of a 9/11 fallen first responder on a lanyard hanging around their necks and close to their hearts.
"I ran for Firefighter Thomas DeAngelis. 51-years-old who wanted to retire the next year," one runner told WKYC Channel 3 News.
Which makes it personal. Each running for heroes they never met, and heroes who need them today.
Because the T2T money raised builds custom smart technology homes for injured veterans back from fighting terrorism still today.
Kyle Hockenberry's family has one of the more than 40 already built.
27-year-old Army Sgt Joshua Stahl's new home with things like countertops and cabinets that lower is being built in Canton.
"Here at our house now, I have to climb up onto the counters to get into the cabinets," says Stahl.
On Sunday, Stahl, also a father of 5 like Siller, cruised across the finish line in a wheelchair, without his legs, blown off in Afghanistan 2011.
It was inspiration for Brandy, a firefighter mom with Westfield Fire and Rescue who crossed the finish line with 4 of her young girls who weren't even alive September 11, 2001.
"It's amazing. I want to cry. I'm just so thankful for all first responders."
Another woman told Channel 3 how moved she was when she crossed the finish line.
"I saw the American flag when I was coming up the hill and I couldn’t be more proud," she said.
More than 500 people crossed the finish line in Medina on Sunday.
Some of them will join a record-breaking 30,000-plus who will run in the T2T New York run on Sept. 25.
Record numbers of runners means more and more smart homes deserving heroes are on the way.
Stephen Siller, who lived a lifetime practicing “While we are here, let us do good”, has to be smiling down.