COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - This week, runners will take to the streets to honor our bravest. The Tunnel to Towers 5K Run and Walk is happening Friday. The annual event is held in cities across the U.S. in memory of New York City firefighter, Stephen Siller, who laid down his life to save others on Sept. 11.
Stephen Siller had just finished his shift on the morning of 9/11 when he got word a that a plane had just hit one of the Twin Towers. Instead of heading home, he ran under the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center. He then gave his life while saving others.
David Adams is a senior firefighter and driver with the Bluffton Fire Department. A college track star back in 2001, now Adams is part of a different crew – the Bluffton Firefighters.
"I'm sure everybody remembers where they were on 9/11. I was in a classroom at Clemson University," Adams said. "I was a collegiate runner and the profession has always been in the back of my mind as a way to give back but also be a part of a team."
When given the opportunity to add running to the mix, Adams jumped at the chance to join his fellow firefighters in the annual Tunnel to Towers 5K.
"The more we found out, the more we liked it and the more we were willing to participate," Adams said.
Another firefighter with the department, lieutenant paramedic, Giovanni Scianna says he hates running, "but I'm able to compete. I'm able to run with these guys and I'm able to do it for a good cause."
Scianna says running may not be his first choice but risking his life to save others most certainly is.
"I wanted to do something to give back. I choose to do it every day. It's not a job, it's a choice," Scianna said.
Each year the department competes against other firefighters in the Tunnel to Towers 5K traveling to races in Savannah, Myrtle Beach, and Columbia.
"The Columbia race is different from a lot of them that we participate in because it's in the evening, which it adds a different feel to it. I think it starts at 7 p.m.," Adams said.
Another major difference in Columbia is that the firefighters race while wearing their gear. It's heavy stuff, Scianna says.
"It weighs probably about 40 pounds, 45, maybe 50 pounds – give or take," Scianna said. "It's not light and it can definitely get you."
As if running isn't already tough - but for these Bluffton firefighters, they say the cause behind the race is what gets them to the finish line.
"It adds a bigger picture to what you're doing. It's not just about, 'Oh, man we're about to suffer in this race," Adams said.
"It really pushes you," Scianna says. "When you're tired and you see the 343 pictures of firefighters that passed along the streets – the people holding them and cheering you on – you could be ready to just fall over and die but you see that, and you just push yourself."