The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Run began in New York City following the 9/11 attacks as a way to memorialize New York firefighter Stephen Siller and the other 342 firefighters who died trying to save others on Sept. 11, 2001. Though he had just gotten off work and was ready to golf, Siller ran from the Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers in full firefighter gear. The New York run has grown to include over 25,000 participants from around the world.
This year, the Stephen Siller Foundation, USA Cares, the Blue Star Mothers of America, and cities across the country – like Mobile – are making the run a national event. Murphy eagerly jumped on the opportunity to have his city participate.
“I guess my story goes back to meeting retired FDNY Fire Lieutenant. Tom O’Conner just after Hurricane Katrina,” said Murphy. “Tom had a group of FDNY firefighters on the gulf coast helping with the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. In the beginning, these NY firefighters were bringing the much-needed hurricane supplies like blue tarps, water and helping wherever needed.”
Once Murphy discovered the firefighter’s living arrangements while helping on the Gulf Coast, he quickly offered discounted lodging as the manager of a Hampton Inn in Daphne, Alabama.
“These firefighters were sleeping in their trucks and tents. They just wanted a bath and a bed before they left the gulf. We gave them the special hospitality that the south is famous for,” Murphy said.
The rest is history…
Each year since Hurricane Katrina, the New York City firefighters continue to return to the Gulf Coast, driving trucks loaded with supplies for the Gulf Coast region.
“Our friendship grew. Our hotel was actually out of their way to the distribution centers where they delivered the goods, but they continued to return each year to our Hampton Inn in Daphne. Last year we had over thirty FDNY firefighters at our hotel,” Murphy said. “The last few years, Tom and his guys have been bringing toys for the kids along the coast. The Gulf Coast has gotten clipped pretty good with the Hurricane – and also many families were out of work from the BP oil disaster. Tom told me that they had such an out-pouring of help and support after 9/11 in New York, that this was their way to give back.”
Last year, the FDNY delivered eight Penske trucks filled with toys, books, cookies, juice, water and food to five locations along the Gulf – providing toys to over 12,000 children. The firefighters have made eight trips since Hurricane Katrina, and have given toys to an estimated 50,000 children in need throughout Alabama and Mississippi.
While the firefighters pay some of their own expenses, their effort to provide Gulf Coast aid is also supported by the Stephen Siller Foundation, through the firefighters’ Gulf Coast Children’s Foundation. Fittingly, the Stephen Siller Foundation’s motto is “Let Us Do Good.”
“These guys have inspired me, along with Stephen Siller and the FDNY. Learning about the Tunnel to Tower Run we tried to get a run going in Mobile last year, but just could not make it happen. This year with the help of some dynamic local citizens like Theresa Wilson-Lollar with Hampton Inn Downtown, Peggy Olive with Red Hen Productions, who also serves as the Race Director, Carol Hunter with Downtown Mobile Alliance, David Calametti with Alabama Coast Magazine, Stacy Hamilton and Kesshia Davis with Mobile Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau, Stacy Wellborn with WellbornIdeas, Elyse Marley with Museum of Mobile, Bill Tunnel with USS ALABAMA Battleship Memorial Park, Angela Goundas, who is the race organizer; Pete Reihm with Honor Flight South Alabama, Ann Rambeau with the City of Mobile, Jim Wilmoth with Patina Gallery and USA Cares, the pieces are falling into place,” said Murphy.
The Mobile Tunnel to Tower run will be held on Sunday, Sept. 11 beginning at 7:30 a.m. It will begin at the Battleship Alabama Memorial Park and proceed through the Bankhead Tunnel, ending somewhere near the RSA Tower, which is the tallest building in Alabama.
Murphy said he hopes to invite bicycle and motorcycle clubs to participate, and hopes to include a one-mile fun run/walk through the tunnel as well. Preliminary plans also call for a sunrise service at the Memorial Park prior to the Tunnel to Tower run, and a Coast Guard flyover.
“Our team is growing each week and the excitement of being part of this national day of remembrance for the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 is also growing,” he said.
USA Cares is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that helps post 9/11 military families bear the burdens of service with financial and advocacy support. Its mission: To help with basic needs during financial crisis, to assist combat injured Veterans and their families and to prevent private military home foreclosures and evictions. In seven years, USA Cares has received over 28,500 requests and responded with more than $7.8 million in grants. Military families anywhere in America can apply for assistance through the USA Cares web site, http://www.usacares.org/ or by calling 1-800-773-0387. For more information on USA Cares contact John Revell,firstname.lastname@example.org or call (270) 352-5451 x101.
STEPHEN SILLER TUNNEL TO TOWERS FOUNDATION
The motto of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation is “Do Something Good.” It’s mission statement states “The sole purpose of our Foundation is to honor the legacy of love given to us by Stephen Siller, FDNY. We do this paying tribute to his heroic life and death, his 342 FDNY brothers, and all those lost on 9/11 through the annual Tunnel To Towers Run. We support the Pediatric Unit of the NYC Firefighter Burn Center, and burn centers throughout the nation. We strive to help children who have lost one or both parents, through local community awards and contributions to organizations with a like mission.”
For more information on the Stephen Sillers Foundation, visit http://www.towerstotunnels.org.
BLUE STAR MOTHERS OF AMERICA
Since its founding in 1942, the Blue Star Mothers of America have championed patriotism by providing support to military members and veterans, alike. With over two hundred chapters across the nation, they provide assistance through a variety of both local and national programs, including the “President’s Project” and “Home for Our Troops.” For more information on the Blue Star Mothers of America, visit http://www.bluestarmothers.org.