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New York Runners Trace Route of Firefighter on September 11, 2001

Runners on the streets of New York are commonplace this time of year. There is the marathon next month, and occasionally, other organized runs. But one annual event has skyrocketed to prominence in recent years. It is a five-kilometer run through a tunnel into Manhattan, along the path one firefighter ran to the site of the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. VOA's Jim Fry has the story.

A solitary runner emerges from the darkness of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel under the East River in New York. The runner reenacts firefighter Stephen Siller's rush into Manhattan the day terrorists struck six years ago.

Thousands of people make the five-kilometer run each September from Brooklyn. The finish line is near the site of the World Trade Center, where Siller's widow Sally watches with tears in her eyes.

Among the runners are many firefighters who hope to keep Siller's memory alive. One of them is Greg Lawless. "You know, that day a lot of guys didn't come home. So, I think it's important -- a very close-knit family," he says.

On September 11th, 2001, as the Twin Towers burned, the 35-year-old Siller – off duty at the time – was not allowed to drive into Manhattan. So, he ran through the tunnel, ending up as one of the more than 300 firefighters counted as dead at Ground Zero.

This year, some firefighters ran in full firefighting gear -- just as Siller did, when he carried 28 kilos on his back.

And there are police officers and soldiers, too. A total of 22,000 runners ran in this year's event, making it the second largest annual run in New York.

An exhausted firefighter – still feeling the loss of September 11th – joins those greeting Sally Siller. Along with the sadness, some speak of their joy over the fact that so many now trace Stephen Siller's path.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani flew home from his presidential campaign to pay tribute. "You get a sense that people haven't forgotten, haven't forgotten the big message of that day – which was love and courage triumph over terrorism and fear," Giuliani told us.

Runners come from around the world, including 150 British firefighters who make the annual trek. One of them says it is well worth it to show support to a fallen colleague. Some days it's quiet in the firehouse, he says, but you never know what's coming next and when it might be your turn.