Running UP the Tallest Building in the Western Hemisphere

Honored to receive this medal

Honored to receive this medal

Every once in a while something very important comes along which enables Run4Papa to support other worthy causes and this is one of them. The Siller Family started the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation to honor the memory of their brother, Stephen, a New York City firefighter (FDNY) who lost his life on September 11, 2001 after strapping on his gear and running through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers.

The Goal: To run up 104 flights of stairs at One World Trade Center (2,226 Steps to Never Forget)
Number of Runners: 1,000
The Benefit: ALL contributions for this event go to help create home modifications for the first responders who were most severely injured serving our country in the line of duty and scholarships to firefighters.

On September 11, 2001, I was a college senior and recall watching the towers fall on TV from my apartment in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Like so many, I was in shock and my heart ached for the people who lost their lives that day, their family and friends, and all of the first responders, like Stephen, who selflessly ran into the twin towers without hesitation.

15 years later, standing in line outside One World Trade Center stirred up a whirlwind of emotions. Runners like myself had their own reasons to participate: they lost loved on 9/11, one of their family members currently served on the NYPD or FDNY, they knew first responders of 9/11 who were disabled and needed help ASAP, they wanted to challenge their bodies and pay it forward. Any reason seemed like a valid one to me.

I wanted to help raise money and be a part of this moment: to add this important cause and memory to a growing list of choices in my life.

My gear for the race

My gear for the race

For security purposes, no technology of any kind was allowed inside the building: no smartphones, Go Pro’s, watches, music or anything of the sort…just a driver’s license, your bib number and the sounds of footsteps up each flight. Every 15 seconds, a new runner began the trek up 104 flights.

29 minutes and 23 seconds later, I reached the observatory but it was the run up that stairwell which will last a lifetime. Yes it was challenging, and yes it was hot, but I couldn’t help thinking about the Siller Family and so many others directly impacted by the events of 9/11. 20, 50, 85, 100+ floors seemed like nothing compared to what firefighters did on that fateful day running into the twin towers with 75 lbs of gear up stairwells with smoke and fire at every corner trying to save as many lives as possible.

I know this race was controversial for some New Yorkers. From my perspective, anytime you can bring a collection of runners together who are willing to help others in this world, an event like this is not only necessary, but an honor and privilege to run, support and give back.

When it was all said and done, over $300,000 was raised on Sunday, May 15, 2016. $300,000. 104 flights was the final destination. Each step was a step for someone in need of our help. With only 1,000 spots available, I was proud to occupy one of them.

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