FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Hundreds laced up their sneakers and hit the pavement in Fort Lauderdale to honor a Sept. 11 hero, early Saturday morning.

The annual Tunnel to Towers 5K Race & Walk, which has been held every year since the terrorist attacks, is aimed at honoring Stephen Siller, a New York City firefighter who was determined to help people trapped in the World Trade Center after two jetliners struck the buildings.

Participants at the Fort Lauderdale event said they also want to pay tribute to first responders and military heroes. “We wanna show our support to the men and women that help us every day,” said runner Jorge Herrera.

Siller ran a mile and a half through the Brooklyn Tunnel, wearing 65 pounds of gear, to reach the World Trade Center. He managed to make it to the second tower minutes before it collapsed.

Stephen Siller
Stephen Siller

Some runners at the 5K donned similar equipment in Siller’s honor. “It’s difficult, but it’s something that we have to do, and we train for it,” said Pembroke Pines Police Officer Sean Yap. “It’s not easy, but we do it.”

“It’s a huge honor,” said Pembroke Pines Police Sgt. Jennifer Martin. “The firefighter who died trying to go back to save others, and to be able to wear our uniforms and try to memorialize that.”

Fifteen years later, participants remember Siller’s sacrifice, and they run to thank first responders who put their lives on the line every day. “God bless each of you for serving us,” said an event organizer as he addressed runners. “I see the men and women running in their gear this morning, just like they did at 9/11, running to save lives. God bless you and the United States of America. Thank you.”

The Tunnel to Towers 5Ks take place all across the country. The one in Fort Lauderdale is one of the largest.

Over the last 15-years, the Siller family has raised $70 million for various charities, including the New York Burn Center.

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