By Jay Meisel
VERO BEACH - After terrorists crashed planes into the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001, people from all over the nation came to help, a retired battalion fire chief in New York City recalled last week.
All the assistance "helped to make our lives easier," John Carroll recalled.
More than a decade later, Mr. Carroll is part of a campaign that will involve Vero Beach and support injured soldiers.
"It's our time to give back to them," he said.
Mr. Carroll spoke during a press conference at Indian River County Fire Rescue Station No. 2 on Aug. 15 to announce that a Tunnel to Towers run will be held Sept. 8 at 7:30 a.m. The event at Riverside Park will raise money to build homes designed to make life easier for severely injured soldiers.
Dan Richey, an organizer of the run and owner of Riverfront Groves in Indian River County, said the race will be one of four events in Florida sanctioned by Tunnel to Towers, the foundation raising money to help the injured veterans.
The other runs will be in Orlando, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, he said.
While Vero Beach is the smallest city involved, it is a community with a big heart, he said.
The original goal was to raise $20,000, but one supporter and sponsor, George E. Williams Corp., has donated $20,000, hoping the event will raise at least $40,000, he said.
The run was started in New York City in honor of Gary Sinise, a firefighter who arrived with his truck to help with the response to the 2011 attacks, said retired battalion fire chief Jack Oehm, whose fire station lost seven firefighters on Sept. 11.
He said when Mr. Sinise couldn't get his truck to the scene, he got out of the vehicle and carried his gear through a tunnel that led to the twin tower area. It's presumed Mr. Sinise died when the south tower collapsed, but his remains have never been found, Mr. Oehm said.
The run in New York went through that tunnel, he said. He said the need for the run in New York and other runs that will raise money for wounded veterans will serve a growing need.
Hundreds of veterans will come home with legs or arms amputated, he said.
Among those benefiting from the campaign is Todd Nicely, a corporal in the U.S. Marines, who lost all his limbs after stepping on a pressure point mine while trying to cross a bridge in Afghanistan on March 26, 2010.
"That pretty much changed me forever," he said.
With the help of artificial limbs, Mr. Nicely subsequently participated in the run in New York.
One of the most helpful things to him, he said, is when Tunnel to Towers raised money to build a "smart" house for him in Missouri.
"The house works for me," he said.
Because of the way the house was built, he's able to do most things, including cooking, without assistance, he said.
Cabinets and counters move up and down, the doors have handles instead of knobs and the house has an elevator, he said.
Vero Beach Vice Mayor Craig Fletcher called Mr. Nicely "a true hero" and presented keys to the city to him, as well as Mr. Carroll and Mr. Oehm.
To register for the run, go to www.t2trun.org/verobeach.