9/11 first responders honored at 5K in South Fort Myers

Honoring the sacrifice of a fallen firefighter other first responders, community members took part in the Stephen Stiller Tunnel to Towers Foundation 5K at Lakes Park in south Fort Myers Saturday.

Firefighter Stephen Siller gave his life while saving others in New York City on 9/11, running with 60 pounds of gear through Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers.

“It’s important to spread the awareness and honor all those that were fallen on 9/11,” said Lauren Taylor, the foundation director. “All of our first responders and everyone that’s out there in the field every day.”

The foundation traveled from New York to Southwest Florida to honor those who sacrificed their lives to save others on 9/11.

“2001 was devastating, not only for America but the entire world,” said Frank Caldara, a former officer with NYPD.

People, young and old, gathered to participate in the 5K run/walk.

“This is my first 5K,” Jaden Conner said. “I’ve never done anything like this before. I heard about it from a friend, and I was like let’s do it. So I came out here, and I thought it would be fun and a very memorable experience.”

Conner, a cadet with South Trail Fire Control District, said he wore his gear in honor of our fallen heroes.

“I’m used to the gear,” Conner said. “We work in it a lot, so we do a lot of training with it. So we’re pretty much used to it, and I figured the brothers did it, so I might as well do it.”

Hailon Wong was one of the first participants to cross the finish line. He said he’s impressed by the first responders who ran in their gear.

“Think it makes it that much more impressive,” Wong said. “I was running, and I was panting the entire time. I can only imagine how to do it with all that uniform as well.”

The race was a success, and unfortunate ran out of participation medals because of the high number in attendance. The foundation plans to host a 5K again next year. Its main-event 5K will be held on the last Sunday in September in New York City.

After completing his first 5K, Conner said he will be back next year.

“It was hard, but I feel so good about doing it,” Conner said. “All these guys behind us did it, and I felt like I had to.”

Reporter:Nicole Gabe
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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