“When I’m running through the tunnel,” Lindsey Tighe said, “I’m just thinking about what Stephen Siller did, thinking about all the firefighters” that ran along the same route, on their way to the World Trade Center on September 11, 16 years before.
On Sunday, Sept. 17, the South Side High School girls’ and boys’ varsity soccer teams participated in the annual Tunnel to Towers Run, which traces the path of Brooklyn-based firefighter Stephen Siller. Siller was raised in Rockville Centre from the age of 12, according to the foundation set up in his honor.
He was on his way to a golf outing with his brothers on that tragic day in 2001 when he heard about the attacks. He turned around and, according to the foundation’s website, “drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.” The tunnel “had already been closed for security purposes. Determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 [pounds] of gear to his back, and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he gave up his life while saving others.”
“When I run out of the tunnel, I always pass these firefighters running through with their gear, and it pushes me to run even faster,” said Lindsey, 16, who lost her father and uncle that day.
She added that she looks forward to the run every year. “Every run always happens to be on a really nice day,” she noted. “I don’t remember anything because I was too little, but I always hear that it was a really nice day [on 9/11]. It gives a feeling that your loved ones are there with you. … It helps me keep the memory alive.”
Lindsey plays for the South Side High School girls’ varsity soccer team, and has participated in the Tunnel to Towers Run for years, along with her teammate Kelsey, who also lost her father. This was the first year that the entire team ran with them.
“Our varsity team is a huge family,” Lindsey said. “We spend every day with each other through the season, and I’ve been on the team since freshman year.” This year, she invited the team to participate in the run, because, she said, “I thought since my actual family does it, my soccer family might like to do it too.” Running with her whole team, she added, was “was really nice and comforting. It means a lot to me, and I know they know that.”
The boys’ varsity soccer team has made running the race a tradition as well every year. The squad’s coach, math teacher Fred Paul, said it gives his team, almost all of whom are too young to remember the day, some perspective. “When you’re 15, 16, 17,” he said, “you live in this little bubble where your biggest concerns are maybe hanging out with your friends, or playing video games.” After they run, Paul said, “they come away from it more appreciative of what they have, more understanding of what people have gone through. They get more of a sense of reality.”
For runners like Lindsey, who live that reality, the run is a way of connecting with her father, much like soccer is. “My dad loved soccer,” she said. “He coached my brothers’ teams.
“When I’m on the field, I’m keeping his memory alive,” she continued. “[My brother] Mike says that when I play, he can see my dad in me.”