By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY — Running 3 miles can be a difficult task. Running 3 miles with an extra 40 pounds of firefighter gear seems almost impossible.
But a New York firefighter, Stephen Siller, did just that on Sept. 11, 2001. He was on his way home from his shift when the attacks began.
Trying to return to help, he realized traffic was at a standstill, so he donned his bunker gear and ran more than 3 miles from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel at Battery Park to the towers. He died that day.
But his commitment lives on, in the form of the “Tunnel to Towers Race” that takes place every year in his memory.
This year on Sept. 25, 14 St. Lucie County firefighters are traveling to run in his memory.
According to Lt. Aaron Shaw of the St. Lucie County Fire District, this is the first time many county firefighters are attending the event.
“Initially, a group of us said yes,” he said. “Then word spread, and other guys from other shifts volunteered to go, too.”
Joe DelValle, one of the county fire personnel, has run in the event before. This will be his third time running.
“It’s incredible,” he said about the run. “There are thousands of people running with you. When you come out of the tunnel, you see that firefighters have lined the street with their trucks, and are holding photos of the firefighters who died.”
The group consists of Mr. Shaw, Mr. DelValle, and Daren Torok, Chris Taylor, Jason Williams, Donnie Herchenroder, Dave Saylor, Donnie Stefani, Eric Barnes, J.P. Staropoli, Robert Hoffman, Soneth Sao, Ryan Bator and Danny Fontanals.
The group is using its own money for travel expenses and to register for the event. They train by running up to three times a week as a group, as well as working out individually.
“This is another good thing to do together,” Mr. Shaw said.
Money raised from the event goes to support the children who have lost a parent, as well as firefighters and military personnel who have been injured in the line of duty.
As far as the group is concerned, this will be the first group trip of many.
“We’re going up there to do the right thing,” Mr. DelValle said. “We are definitely making plans for next year.”