Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Following the Footsteps

This past Sunday I participated in the 10th annual Tunnel to Towers Run held in New York to commemorate the heroic service of Firefighter Stephen Siller on September 11, 2001, as well as everyone else who gave their lives that day. The run traces the route Siller took from Brooklyn to the World Trade Center.

A water taxi from Wall Street took us to the Ikea parking lot in Red Hook, Brooklyn and a staging area for the race. It’s several blocks away from the starting line, and we spent at least an hour or more standing on a crowded street waiting for the race to start.

Once it gets under way, there are a lot of ceremonial things happening before the race starts, with plenty of breaks in between to allow for television coverage and its commercials.

It’s a warm and crowded race, and you can’t help but elbow and be elbowed in the course of it. But it is the friendliest big city crowd you will ever be in. There’s a great feeling of camaraderie and patriotism. Chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” broke out along the route, and the run is a tribute to the resilience of New York and America itself, but there were plenty of non-Americans there, including firefighters from Germany and the U.K. running in their full gear.

The Brooklyn Battery Tunnel gets pretty hot when thirty thousand people are running through it, but once you’re through the tunnel, it’s very pleasant. And when the Finish Line is in view, it motivates you to sprint to it.

On the Brooklyn side before you go into the tunnel, firefighters lined along the route shout encouragement from their trucks. On the Manhattan side, firefighters in dress uniforms line the route, holding banners representing each of the 343 firefighters lost in the September 11th attacks. Another long line of firefighters hold 343 American flags. It’s a moving sight.

I did not personally know anyone who perished in the September 11 attacks. But I do know the punk rock band The Bullys and love their music. One of their founding members was Firefighter John Heffernan, a member of Ladder Company 11 and died in the South Tower of the Trade Center. I wore my Bully t-shirt as a tribute and when I came upon the Firefighter holding his memorial banner on the Manhattan side of the Tunnel, I high-fived him. Before the race, I was heartened to see a young woman with a Dead Kennedys tattoo getting ready to run. I hope to be back next year with a small army of Bullys fans, maybe some will have big Mohawks.

There are marching bands, cheerleaders from around the country, rock bands, tourists, yachtsman at the Battery Park Marina tooting their boats’ horns for you, and throngs of well wishers along the route applauding your efforts. It’s a great cross-section of New Yorkers, Americans, and people from all over the world.

The run encompasses all that is great about New York and drives home the point that no matter what horrors strike our city, New York will bounce back and we can’t be shaken.

I finished the run in 43 minutes and 52 seconds and came in 8,877th place. Volunteers were handing out water and bananas after the finish line. I took some water and ate a banana; it was the most delicious banana I have ever eaten.

See you there next year.


Barclay Hurley said...
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georgensymonds said...
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