Tens of thousands of runners already inspired by Pope Francis’ message of hope concluded an unforgettable week with the solemn Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers race in honor of 9/11 first responders.
The 14th annual 5K run follows the path of Siller, a firefighter in Park Slope who strapped on 60 lbs. of gear and ran through stalled traffic in the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center on 9/11.
He died there saving others.
“Stephen Siller’s heroism was just incredible. His dedication, his heroism, it’s something for all of us to reach for,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said at the start of the run in the Ikea parking lot in Red Hook.
“To have the Pope and then Siller? Two great things to aspire to: the Pope’s message and Siller’s bravery.”
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Jim Ward, 48, ran the race for the third time.
“I have a couple of friends who died that day,” said Ward, of Rockaway Beach. “I’m grateful to do this. We have to pay our respects.”
Race organizer Joanne Navarra blew a horn signaling the start for some 30,000 participants. Her husband, firefighter Vic Navarra, was an instrumental organizer of the run.
He died in 2007 of sinus cancer that his family says was due to his work at Ground Zero.
“The race has grown immensely over the years. It feels great,” Navarra said through tears. “I just wish my husband was alive to see it.”