Even with the threat of rain, 222 participants turned out in support of the inaugural Tunnel to Towers Middle Tennessee 5K Run/Walk Saturday. Seven states were represented, as were 24 different cities and even another country – France.
Warren County EMS employee and Centertown Fire Department Lt. Joey Clark said he was thrilled with the turnout, especially for its first year.
“Through sponsorships, donations and registration fees, we’ve raised an estimated $20,000,” said Clark. “We’re still figuring up from the silent auction, but I’ m so grateful our community supported this effort and we’re planning to make it an annual event.”
Many participants were decked out in patriotic running gear while others proudly ran in uniform and gear while carrying flags along the 3.1-mile route. Each runner or walker wore one or more memorial badges of first responders who died helping others after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Before the ceremony began, Lauren Fletcher, daughter of fallen firefighter Ray Meisenheimer, shared his story with the crowd.
“My dad specialized in trench rescue and collapse so he’s who they’d call when other firefighters needed to be saved,” said Fletcher. “He was set to retire in November 2001 and on Sept. 11 he was ending his shift at Rescue 3 to go to his second job at the Suffolk County Fire Academy. So on Sept. 11, he went out into the parking lot to get his truck, realized he was blocked in, went back into the firehouse to have the car moved, the alarm went off and he jumped on the rig. He never came home.”
French firefighter Anthony Locks has participated in 15 Tunnel to Towers races all around the U.S. He ran in his gear while holding the French flag.
“I had many friends pass away on Sept. 11 in New York and it is very important to me and my friends’ families,” said Locks. “I’ve run Tunnel to Towers in Florida, New York, California and Georgia to name a few.”
Although this race wasn’t timed as its focus was on fundraising and remembering those who have died, Jarvis Johnson with the Warren County Sherriff’s Dept. and Paul Toney with the Morrison Fire Dept. were awarded medals for being the first finishers in their gear/uniform.
After the race, North Warren firefighter Brady Moffitt explained why it was important for him to complete the course in his 65-pound gear.
“To honor the fallen and what they stood for,” said Mofitt. “They’ve told us you’ve got to have a way out and they didn’t. The biggest thing in firefighting is to make sure everyone goes home and none of these people did so it’s a privilege to participate in this event.”
Tunnel to Towers Foundation honors New York City firefighter Stephen Siller and the more than 300 first responders who died Sept. 11, 2001. Proceeds from the event support the foundation’s programs and are available nationwide including their Smart Home programs