Skip to comments.Running in the footsteps of a hero
Posted on 09/07/2010 3:02:20 PM PDT by afraidfortherepublic
9 city firefighters, paramedics to jog in N.Y. 5K honoring firefighter killed on 9-11
With the benefit of hindsight, it's not a fair question to ask if other firefighters would do what Stephen Siller did that awful day.
We know it cost him his life, along with 342 other New York firefighters and paramedics at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
Siller was off duty and on his way to play golf, but when he heard about planes hitting the towers he drove from Brooklyn toward Manhattan. When he found the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel shut down, he abandoned his vehicle and ran the rest of the way in his fire gear. No trace of his body was ever found. He had a wife and five children at home.
Later this month, nine Milwaukee firefighters and paramedics - all women - will retrace his steps in the 5K Tunnel to Towers Run in New York, held annually in Siller's honor. They will put themselves in his shoes that day. Or boots, actually. In fact, the women will run 3.1 miles in full firefighting gear - the heavy coat, pants, boots, gloves and even helmet.
"We just thought it was a wonderful way to help support the firefighters and families in New York City and show that we do truly never forget," said Ellen Spatt, a captain on the Milwaukee Fire Department.
She was inspired to organize the difficult quest by a visit last year from Tim Brown, a firefighter who survived the Sept. 11 attack and has since retired from the NYFD. He was missing the run to be here for the retirement party of a Milwaukee firefighter, so he challenged everyone to join the 2010 run.
Spatt narrowed in on her female colleagues for a team. They were excited about the idea.
"Then I said we're going to run it with one thing - we're going to do it in firefighting gear. And they're like, 'Ohhh, OK.' But not one of them backed down," she said.
The women, ranging in age from 25 to 48, have been practicing every week on the track at Hart Park in Wauwatosa. They've gotten a lot of strange looks and questions from the T-shirt-and-shorts crowd out there. Firefighter Tracy Buckland drew particular interest from a school cross country coach.
"He kept giving me water bottles. 'You have to hydrate! You need to hydrate!' " she said.
The women don't run fast. The rubbing of their pants legs makes a scrump-scrump sound, and you can hear the clanking of their spanner belts, which are used to carry axes and other tools. You see them running, and you're tempted to yell, "Hey, where's the fire?"
Their goal on Sept. 26, the day of the run, is to finish without stopping to walk. They want to feel what Stephen Siller felt as he rushed through the streets.
"There's a lot of chafing. You get hot and sweaty. Your feet hurt running in the boots. It's not a tennis shoe," Spatt said. "We are in our gear all the time at fire scenes, and we're running around doing things for short times and bursts of energy. But to run a 5K in your gear is a challenge."
They estimate the extra weight of the gear is about 30 pounds. It's made to keep heat away from their skin, so it's certainly not intended to ventilate a runner.
Some of them are in better running shape than others. Firefighter and paramedic Tina Conklin said she's not much of a runner in real life. "My hope is to keep up with these people and not look stupid," she laughed. "Do you know how hot it is in Manhattan in September?
They will be joined in New York by some male firefighters from Milwaukee, but those guys don't plan to run in their turnout gear. They'll also run alongside other firefighters and police officers from around the country. The run is open to anyone.
Spatt and the others share a sense of pride in what they do for a living. They understand the call to duty that Siller felt that day.
"That's the wonderful thing about the spirit of these solid women firefighters that we have. They always aspire to do more," Spatt said.
The other six women joining them are Sandy Williamson, Kristin Ticcioni, Jennifer Schaefer, Sue Lucas, Kristin Ciganek and Julie Hall.
Milwaukee firefighters (from left) Lt. Tina Conklin, firefighter Tracy Buckland, firefighter Sandy Williamson, Capt. Ellen Spatt, and firefighter-paramedic Kristin Ticcioni will be joined by four others from the area for the 5K Tunnel to Towers Run in New York. The run commemorates Stephen Siller, a firefighter killed on Sept. 11, 2001.
WOW - just WOW!!!
Dear Lord, please bless these ladies and all the other runners on that memorial run, and please provide a special place and blessing for those brave souls that lost their lives on that terrible day, in Jesus Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
Thank you for the kind thoughts. I thought this was a spectacular story on all levels. Apparently, only you noticed. I can’t even imagine the strength, stamina and grace that this feat will require.
Good gracious those gals are nuts!
Bless ‘em for their spirit, though. Thanks to all of them!