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5k event honors fallen first responders from 9/11

Posted: September 13, 2017 - 12:52am
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Pastor Theo Bristol completes the Tunnel to Tower 5k carrying a flag at station No. 2 in Grovetown, on Saturday morning.
Pastor Theo Bristol completes the Tunnel to Tower 5k carrying a flag at station No. 2 in Grovetown, on Saturday morning.

While the threat of then-approaching Hurricane Irma kept many runners from being able to participate, a small crowd gathered for the second annual run and walk held each year in honor of first responders killed when running into danger during 9/11.

The Tunnel to Towers 5k run and walk kicked off with two fully clad firefighters taking off through the truck bay area of firestation 2 in Grovetown, to run a 5k through a nearby neighborhood.

Running through the bay is meant to signify the same run New York Firefighter Stephen Siller took after the first plane struck the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. in 2001.

"He had gotten off of work, he heard about it, geared up, got out of his car and ran with his bunker gear, through the Brooklyn Tunnel and to the towers and didn't make it out," said co-organizer Cornelia Ryan. "That's why it's called Tunnel to Towers."

Fort Gordon firefighter Anthony Dobbins completed the run for the second year in a row, clad in firesuit, oxygen tank and helmet.

"The purpose of dressing out completely is because Stephen Siller did it," Dobbins said. "I can come out here and run in PT gear, which is perfectly fine and I commend those that came out and did that. But being a firefighter I felt that I wanted to stay true to what he did."

Dobbins said that while cardio wasn't necessarily his forte, he kept Siller's run in his mind.

"Those times when maybe I thought I should slow down and just stop, I just pushed through because I knew when he was running, there was such a purpose and I wanted to carry that same purpose when I was running so I kept my pace and on track," Dobbins said.

Traveling from Greenwood to participate in the race was Marine veteran, Pastor Theo Bristol, whose ministry brings him to participate in walks and runs for a good cause all over Georgia and South Carolina.

"My wife and I and our ministry will be representing in nine different runs, so we usually start in March and we run all the way up until November, and it's just a chance to just give back to both states and meet some good people," Bristol said. "We love the atmosphere."

Each runner paid a registration fee and was given a badge with a photo and a name of one of the more than 300 firefighters who were killed while responding to the towers on 9/11.

Representing Team RWB - Red White Blue - was Evans resident and veteran Michael Laird, who was one of two carrying the American Flag on the run, behind the firefighters.

"I think it's very important to remember the sacrifice that they made and come out and support any way we can," Laird said. "Being a veteran myself, I always try to run with the colors. I think it's improtant to once again, just show that support for our brothers and sisters who are forward right now and for all those who have served as well."

Ryan said that the hurricane did dampen attendance numbers, but not support of the cause, which benefit the Tunnels to Tower foundation.

"All of the funds go to a lot of great things," Ryan said. "One of the big things they do is they build homes for the catastrophically injured or wounded service men and women. And for every home they build, there's three other people that's needing a home."

Ryan said the event was her husband's, John Ryan's, idea and that he shared a special connection with both New York and the firefighter brotherhood, after 34 years of service. John Ryan emceed the event Saturday.

"When he found out about this he came to me and was telling me about his idea and we didn't move on it then because it just seemed to be a lot but the foundation did a lot of changes over the past several years, and made it pretty much easy for you to put these on in your city," Ryan said. "There are a lot of support from the foundation, that's based out of New York."

Ryan said the event was an opportunity to not only remember those who sacrificed their lives on 9/11 by running into danger, like Siller, but to educate and keep their memories alive.

"We don't want to keep going over and over again, what happend, but at the same time we want to let people know that we haven't forgotten about you all," Ryan said. "We know that this weekend is very moving to a lot of people. Then I think just the education piece of it. We have Scouts out here, and some of them weren't even born when 9/11 happened or they were babies, so the event just kind of brings that education piece."

And while a tragedy, Ryan said the event serves as a reminder of the power of unity in times of crisis.

"It really just reminds you of just the value of life and how things can change in a moment's time and also just how we can all still come together, regardless of whatever is going on in the world, sometimes it takes these horrible events, but it brings people back together," Ryan said. "It's just a very touching and moving moment and we just feel honored and grateful to actually be able to bring something like this to the Augusta area."

Ryan said they plan to be back next year.

 

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