Saturday’s Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk marked nearly 20 years since the harrowing events of 9/11.
The bright and clear skies belied the sobering reminder that, almost two decades ago, thousands of lives were lost due to acts of terrorism against America and hundreds of selfless servicemen and women turned out to do what they had pledged their lives to doing: serve their country and their constituents.
The event was organized by Joe Clark and a dedicated group of volunteers who share similar passion for memorializing those who lost their lives to 9/11 and its aftermath.
Clark himself is a firefighter and was one of many who donned gear and hit the trail in memory of those who never returned from their calls.
“This foundation means the world to me,” said Clark. “I am incredibly grateful for the way the community has embraced and supported this event.”
Lauren Fletcher was in attendance and gave a speech. She became involved with Tunnel to Towers in 2012 in New York. Her father, Ray Meisenheimer, was one of many who gave his life in the effort to rescue others at Ground Zero. Meisenheimer was a firefighter and a member of FDNY’s Rescue 3.
When Fletcher moved to Tennessee in 2016, she found herself unable – and unwilling – to leave the foundation behind. Of why she wanted to bring Tunnel to Towers to Middle Tennessee, Fletcher said, “It was very important to me that my dad not be forgotten.”
By bringing Tunnels to Towers to Tennessee, the memories of her father and all other servicemen and women who paid the ultimate price to save the lives of others endure.
Hundreds of people took part in the event to show their support. Each person participating in the 5K took at least one ID tag that featured a person who died in the line of duty on 9/11. The ID tag gave details about the person, a small glimpse into the life of those who are being memorialized.
Participants were allowed to walk or run, whichever was their preference, and firefighters in attendance led the first wave of runners. Some donned full turnout suits, while others opted to use partial gear to honor the fallen.
“This is the most rewarding event I’m a part of,” said Marla Cantrell, one of many volunteers. “I have several family members who serve. My husband, cousin and uncle are all firefighters. This is a great event because it’s history we can’t forget.”
Tunnel to Towers Foundation uses the funding it receives to assist individuals who are catastrophically injured in the line of duty by building smart homes for them. For those who lose their lives while in service, they pay mortgages for the family left behind so their burden is at least monetarily eased. For each dollar that is donated to the cause, 93 cents goes directly to the programs the foundation provides.
Saturday’s event raised an estimated $30,000 for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the group intends to continue to fundraise throughout the year.