Written by Rich Forestano, firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 11 October 2013 00:00
It started with 800 people and now, more than 30,000 come out for the Annual Tunnel to the Towers 5K Run/Walk, now in its 12th year. Eighty people left from Piccola Bussola Restaurant in Mineola for lower Manhattan on Sunday, Sept. 29 to retrace the steps of Stephen Siller, a FDNY fireman that abandoned his truck and ran through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel with 75 pounds of gear to help as the towers were falling during the Sept. 11 attacks.
Siller was enjoying a day off planning to play golf before he learned what was happening.
“He was trying to get into the city and left his car and ran there,” Piccola Bussola Owner Tony Lubrano, who helped organize the local runners, said. “Unfortunately he was a great athlete and got their too soon as the towers were falling.”
Lubrano called the event “emotional.” Runners were greeted by 343 firemen as they exited the tunnel, holding banners of friends who perished 12 years ago.
“A group of us here in Mineola decided we wanted to participate,” Lubrano said. “We got buses together and met that Sunday morning and the Mineola Fire Department together with the New Hyde Park Fire Department, got two firetrucks together to hold a flag over Jericho Turnpike for a touching photo, which we had framed.”
Lubrano and Nick Valastro helped organize the 80 runners. Valastro and Lubrano have worked together in the past, organizing local work for the Walt Disney half-marathon.
Valastro owns a real estate business and lives in Garden City. He runs United Mavericks, an ad-hoc group of local business leaders that support local charities and causes.
“The number one focus is to support each other’s charity by getting physically involved in the charity, rather than writing a check,” Valastro said.
For next year’s run, Lubrano and Valastro plan to reach out to more first responders and volunteer firefighters to participate. Valastro called the scene coming out of the tunnel “incredible.”
“The fact that we were walking and running through the same tunnel where Stephen Siller ran...it was great to get everyone involved in it,” he said. “When you get to the finish line, the sea of people...it was incredible.”
The whole event raised more than $2 million, with $6,000 coming from the Mineola participants.