Each staff member and volunteer at the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation has a unique reason as to why he or she joined the Siller family in its mission to support first responders and military heroes. Many of our stories are personal and have a deep connection to the cause. This is what lies at the core of Tunnel to Towers – the heart and soul of each individual dedicating their life to the memory of Stephen Siller and “doing good” in his name. This will never be “just a job” or “just a way to fill time” for our staff and volunteers. As Frank Siller says “once you are in, you are in for life!”
The story below is one from long-time volunteer, Jane Grismer. Jane is our race director for our Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk in Savannah, Georgia. Jane and her team of volunteers do a remarkable job carry out this annual event.
We started the Tunnel to Towers Savannah event in 2012. I was already a seasoned race director, but when I heard that the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk was going national, I raised my hand without hesitation. I never want people to forget what happened on September 11, 2001.
As the sister of two New York City firefighters and the daughter of the retired General Manager of Operations for the World Trade Center, September 11, 2001 was the worst of times for our family. In the days following 9/11, more and more people that we knew and loved were being revealed as lost in the ashes.
One of the people that we lost was Stephen Siller. Stephen was two years ahead of me at St. Agnes Cathedral High School in Rockville Centre, New York. Stephen was very well liked, handsome, and athletic, and he performed in the school plays. His older brother Russell was one of our teachers at the school. It was a devastating loss for the St. Agnes community.
I had heard that someone else had been interested in helping to put together this event. It was Tim Guidera, a news personality from WTOC-TV, our local CBS affiliate. I contacted Tim and we connected with Robert Espinoza, the owner of Fleet Feet Sports Savannah. Together, the three of us sat down in the WTOC offices, and decided that I would serve as race director.
The most important thing a race director can do, other than break the event down into small pieces, is to view the event with a servant’s heart. You are a connector between the community you serve and the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
In Savannah, from the very beginning, we established Team 343, a group predominantly comprising the Girl Scouts of America and the Boy Scouts of America. However, participation is open to all children of Savannah. The children hold placards for each member of the 343 members of the FDNY lost on 9/11. They also hold flags. In appreciation for their participation, we issue each a Tunnel to Towers patch that can be sewn to their uniform.
Being a volunteer race director for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk in Savannah is the most meaningful thing I have ever done. There is so much opportunity to learn something new. Just five years in and planning our 6th annual event, I have to say that it gets easier. It’s only the first few years where you are building a foundation and pouring the concrete; afterwards it becomes second nature.
I am here for my brothers, my father, the 343 firefighters that lost their lives on September 11, 2001, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, the World Trade Center, New York City, our men and women in uniform, my friends that were lost on that horrific day and their families. And, of course, for Stephen; for his story is one that I will never get tired of telling.
Thank you, Jane, for sharing your story with us! More importantly, thank you for being part of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. Your dedication to our mission to honor our first responders and military heroes is second to none. The Savannah event has raised thousands of dollars over the last five years to support the Foundation. Perhaps just as important is the fact that you and your team have shared Stephen’s story down south. Your efforts play a huge role in ensuring that, as a nation, we fulfill our promise to Never Forget.
This year’s Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk in Savannah is being held on September 9, 2017. Registration is now open at http://www.t2trun.org/! Please join Jane and her team for a truly patriotic and special day!
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