Raleigh's Tunnel to Towers 5K honors first responders

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The race honored first responders who gave their lives on Sept. 11 and helped raise money for a local veteran. (WTVD)

A big race in Raleigh Sunday helped honor first responders of past and present. It's an event with roots dating back to Sept.11, and now it's going to help a local wounded warrior.

Hundreds of people came out to take part in Raleigh's Tunnel to Towers 5K. It's a run that lets people pay tribute to all first responders, including firefighters, EMS, and men and women in uniform.

The event was started in honor of Stephen Siller, a firefighter from Brooklyn who responded on 9/11.

"On the morning of 9/11, he responded to the call of duty - was called to come in and serve. He was off-duty, and he turned around to head back to Manhattan and ran essentially a three-mile course from the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers in his full gear," said organizer Lisa Bender.

Ultimately, Siller lost his life saving others, as did many other first responders whose pictures marked the sidelines of the race course. It was a moving reminder for those taking part, especially fellow firefighters. In fact, just as Siller ran the length of a 5K on 9/11 in full gear, so did many of the firefighters at the race this year.

What makes that even more impressive is that the full gear firefighters wear is more than 50 pounds. But many say that's a small burden to bear when it comes to honoring their fallen brothers and sisters.

Chief Jack Oehm is one such firefighter who traveled from New York City for the race.

"We always got to remember, and this is a way to remember and to share Stephen's story and to pay respects to our first responders, and of course our military guys that keep us safe every day and night," explained Oehm.

In addition to paying respects to those who have served and are serving, the race also helped raise money for a local veteran. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation is donating proceeds to the Building for America's Bravest program, which is going to build a special smart home for Sgt. Tom McCrae of Fayetteville who lost both legs, an arm, and an eye in a roadside blast in Afghanistan.

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