RUTHERFORD, N.J. – For the third 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 during near-record-breaking heat on Sunday, September 24. Felician's team members took on the role of encouraging the participants at various stages of the course.
Golden Falcon true freshman guard Sophia Guerrier (Waltham, Mass./Waltham) was slightly more than 3 ½ years old on the day of the terror attacks. Before volunteering at the Tunnel To Towers 5K, her impressions of the events of that day consisted mostly of what she had been told by others.
"I have a general idea that it was a very bad day for America, a scary time," Guerrier said. "I have a mental image of the planes going into the buildings, and what has stayed with me is the stress people must have been under as they felt they had no choice but to jump out of the buildings. But afterward, it seemed to cause us to come together as a nation."
After a day of vigorously clapping, cheering, and high-fiving individuals who had experienced the tragedy in a more first-hand way, Guerrier could not help but be affected.
"The day was very impactful and powerful," she said. "There were people in firesuits running in full gear in the 90-degree weather. One lady was running in a T-shirt that had the face of a relative who died on 9-11 on the front. It was very emotional, and influenced me to have courage."
Team community service has been a hallmark for coach Steve Fagan's program throughout his 10 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. They will hold a holiday food drive at their first home game on December 5, and an event to fight pediatric cancer is slated for later in the season.
"These events all give us an opportunity to grow as a person and lend our hearts and abilities," Guerrier said. "That's very important in life. I enjoy it."