RUTHERFORD, N.J. – For the second consecutive year, members of the Felician University women's basketball team volunteered at the Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers 5K Run and Walk in New York City.
The Tunnel To Towers Run is held annually in memory of Siller, an NYC firefighter who was killed during the aftermath of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. After getting off his shift that morning, Siller heard on his scanner of the first airplane to hit the World Trade Center. He retrieved his gear and drove his truck to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, which was already closed. He then ran, with 60 pounds of gear on his back, from the tunnel to the twin towers, and died while attempting to save others.
The Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation now exists to honor Siller's sacrifice and that of military and first responders nationwide. The NYC 5K is set up to follow Siller's path on that fateful morning. It begins in the Battery Tunnel, and the finish line is near the Freedom Tower.
This year's event was held on September 25. Felician's team members split between working at water stations, and providing directions at information booths.
Golden Falcon redshirt freshman center Kristin Smith (Hainesport, N.J./Rancocas Valley) was just shy of her fifth birthday in September of 2001. While she has learned about the attacks through news reports over the years, working the Tunnel To Towers Run gave her a more direct feel for the effects.
"I've watched video about it," Smith said. "It was different that day, though, hearing people's conversations about what they lost, but how they are still here, taking things day by day and moving on. I feel like that day struck fear into us, but we've risen, and we'll continue as a whole to get back up."
According to junior transfer Marta Moix (Madrid, Spain/John Carroll School [Md.]), the terror attacks were newsworthy even in her native Spain.
"I remember that my mother was really upset," Moix said. "Also, many years later, we had a train bombing in Madrid committed by the same group, so I have memories of that. What I took from the race was that everyone went out of their way to say 'Thank you,' and all we were doing was cheering and giving them water. I saw people with no legs pushing to get through five kilometers and not feeling sorry for themselves. I left there believing that there are more good people in the world than bad."
Team community service has been a hallmark for coach Steve Fagan's program throughout his nine seasons in Rutherford. The Golden Falcons are once again scheduled to serve as chaperones and costume contest judges at the Rutherford Ragamuffin Parade in late October, and will hold a holiday food drive at their first home game on November 16.
"Coach Fagan is selfless," said Moix, in her first season at Felician. "He brings his family to everything, and they always have smiles on their faces. He can be tough, but if you need someone, you know he has your back. He shows us that there is a bigger picture out there and that our program is about more than basketball."
The approach appears to be working.
"Everything we do has been so eye-opening," said Smith, in her second year in Fagan's program. "I'm learning that community service is more than just volunteering time."