Tunnel to Towers run evokes fond and painful memories for first - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Tunnel to Towers run evokes fond and painful memories for first responders' families

(Source: WIS) (Source: WIS)
(Source: WIS) (Source: WIS)

This week’s Tunnel to Towers run in Columbia is bringing back fond memories as well as painful ones for the families of fallen first responders.

“He's being remembered,” said Alexis Alia, “because he gave the ultimate sacrifice like all of those other men and women did. And we're proud of him.”

Alia’s son, Forest Acres police officer Greg Alia, was one of three Midlands responders to die recently in the line of duty. The heroism of such public servants was to be a focus of the Tunnel To Towers run in Columbia on Friday, September 16, which starts at the September 11th Memorial and ends at the First Responders Memorial on Lincoln Street.

The Tunnel To Towers run takes its inspiration from New York City firefighter Stephen Siller who, on September 11, 2001, ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the burning World Trade Center, only to die when the towers collapsed

For September 11th observances on Sunday, that memorial newly bore the names of Greg Alia, shot and killed while chasing a suspect in the Richland Mall, as well as Columbia Police officer Stacy Case, who died in the wreck of her police cruiser responding to a call, and Columbia firefighter Tyron Weston who succumbed to heart disease which struck while he was on duty in the summer of 2015. 

Alexis Alia declared herself grateful for the support and recognition she has experienced through tributes like Tunnel to Towers, but also saw in them an important message of public support for first responders, support which she said is sometimes lacking.

“This is a raising of awareness which I think is extremely important,” she said, “because if we don't start supporting our first responders, and our military, we may find that we don't have young people that are willing to do it. And, without them, we don't have any protection."

The honor for Officer Greg Alia came as Forest Acres and Alia’s family prepared to mark one year since his death on September 30, 2015.

“There are times that I would have nightmares about what it would be if something happened,” said Alexis Alia. “It's one of those things that you just immediately push out of your mind. It's always there. Parents always know that it can happen. But you think, ‘It won't happen to mine.’ And it did.”

Alexis Alia and Weston’s daughter, Ashley, said they’ve been amazed and inspired at the way the community has rallied together to support them and to honor their fallen loved ones. 

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