A 2.33 mile walk to honor those who run towards danger while others run away was held at Fort Rucker Sept. 11.
Hosted by the Fort Rucker Fire Department— the biggest in the Army with 215 personnel manning 21 fire stations in Southeast Alabama—the Stephen Siller Memorial Tunnel to Tower Walk is held each year to memorialize the thousands who died after the Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City Sept. 11, 2001.
Fort Rucker leadership and first responders, under the direction of Fort Rucker Fire Chief Lonny Keen, led the marchers. The traditional memorial stair climb at the Soldier Support Center was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some 2,996 people died as the result of terrorist hijackers flying two Boeing 767 jets into the towers, including 343 firefighters and paramedics and 60 police officers.
The Fort Rucker walk is named in honor of Brooklyn, N.Y. Squad 1 Firefighter Stephen Siller who was on his way home after finishing his shift when the attack occurred, according to Fort Rucker Fire Fighter Chris Quattlebaum.
“Stephen Siller was on his way home when he got the call that the North Tower had been hit by the plane,” Quattlebaum said, adding that Siller turned to return to his station but was stopped at the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, then known as the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.
“From there he ran with over 60 pounds of gear on his back, back to the World Trade Center,” Quattlebaum said. “That was the last place that anybody saw him.”
Quattlebaum was still in high school when the 9/11attack occurred but said he remembers it vividly. “My life really changed that day,” he said. “I decided that day to go into the military and become a firefighter.”
Fort Rucker’s Director of Public Safety Lt. Col Phillip Lenz called Siller, “the true embodiment of selfless service, bravery and a sense of duty greater than oneself.
“This event is about many things, not just about any one individual,” Lenz said. “The heroic acts of Stephen Siller represents the larger body of America’s first responders.
“This event is about the undying American spirit, patriotism, unity and coming together for the same cause in response to unforgiving tragedy,” Lenz added. “It changed us as a nation, it changed us as a military, it changed what we do, specifically, as first responders.
“(Stiller’s) sense of duty, his loyalty, dedication to the overall mission, his lifelong quest for saving people—not everybody can do that,” Lenz said. “I think it is endemic of the over all culture of the first responder community. It’s what we do. It’s something we are incredibly passionate about.”