This article ran in the Democrat and Chronicle on September 29, 2019.
by Caurie Putnam
For Michele Walsh Myers, Tuttle North, on the campus of The College at Brockport, will forever be a place of bittersweet emotion. It was in that building on Sept. 11, 2001, that Myers, a native of Seaford, Long Island, was at her graduate student work study job when she heard that a plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in Manhattan.
Eighteen years later, Myers teaches in Tuttle North as a full-time lecturer in the kinesiology, sports studies and physical education department. It is also where the Stephen Siller — Tunnel to Towers Brockport 5K Run & Walk, which Myers directs, will begin and end Sunday, Oct. 6.
“I’m so glad to be able to bring the event to Brockport because this is where I was when Sept. 11 happened,” Myers said.
Since 2002, the race has been held in cities around the nation in memory of Stephen Siller, 34, a New York City firefighter who died Sept. 11, 2001, after putting on his gear and running through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers.
The nonprofit Stephen Siller Foundation, which founded the race, has raised over $125 million in support of first responders, veterans and Gold Star families. It remembers the 343 FDNY members, 71 police officers (from 10 different agencies) and thousands of citizens killed on Sept. 11, 2001 — several of whom Myers had a personal connection to.
“My alma mater, Seaford High School, lost five in the tower attacks,” Myers said. “Two of them I went to high school with and grew up with — New York City firefighter Timmy Haskell and his brother Tommy, a battalion chief with FDNY’s Ladder 132. It made the attacks more personal and gave me the drive to do something to make sure the victims were never forgotten.”
Myers organized a Tunnel to Towers races in Rochester from 2016 to 2018, but when she got hired full time at her alma mater last year, she was asked by her department chair, Cathy Houston-Wilson, also a Long Island native, to consider moving the race to Brockport.
“The support I’ve received from the kinesiology department, the college, village of Brockport, mayor, campus and village police departments and the Brockport Volunteer Fire Department has been overwhelming,” Myers said. “It means a lot to bring the race here and to include the students and the monument.”
The Brockport Volunteer Firefighters Association maintains a September 11 th monument in front of Brockport Fire Department’s Station 4 on 237 S. Main St. A part of Main Street will be shut down on race day so that participants can run by the monument.
About 70 Tunnel to Towers races are held annually; typically on or around Sept. 11. Myers chose early October so she could get more students from the college involved after they were settled in for the first semester.
The Brockport Student Government has given 100 registration fees for students to participate. Myers is also seeking 343 volunteers from the college and community to hold signs along the race route that bear the photos and names of each of the 343 FDNY members killed on Sept. 11, 2001.
To register for the Tunnel to Towers Brockport race ($25 advance; discounts for certain ages) at 9 a.m. Oct. 6, visit crowdrise.com/t2tbrockport2019. Same day registration is $30. To volunteer, email Brockport@tunnel2towers.org or fill out the online race registration form (there is a free volunteer option listed). For race updates and road closures, visit Tunnel To Towers Brockport on Facebook.
Contact Caurie at email@example.com with news from west-side towns. She’s on Twitter at @CauriePutnam and on Facebook at facebook.com/ BrockportBlog/.