About 1,000 stair climbers from across the nation raced Sunday to the top of One World Observatory at the World Trade Center in Manhattan to raise money for families of soldiers wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan and to remember 9/11 first responders who died in the line of duty.
More than $300,000 was raised in the second annual Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Climb, which included elite skyscraper climbers, FDNY firefighters, and the families and friends of NYPD and Port Authority personnel.
Elite climbers completed the 2,226-step vertical sprint in less than 17 minutes Sunday morning. The winner, Alex Workman, 39, of upstate Schenectady, finished at 14 minutes and 26 seconds. He was followed by Stephanie Hucko, 44, of Charlotte, North Carolina, at 16 minutes and 20 seconds.
“It was amazing to stand at the finish line and see these racers come through. The winner was exhausted and the woman who came in after him was dressed in pink. There was even a 12-year-old, and 78-year-old man,” said Jacqueline Scott-Sanford, whose husband, Inwood volunteer firefighter Joseph Sanford Jr., died in a 2014 house fire in Woodmere. He also worked in the recovery effort after the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center.
Scott-Sanford was joined by the widows of NYPD Detectives Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, who were killed in Brooklyn by a lone gunman while sitting in their cruiser in 2014. The widows all received financial support from the charity, which pays off the home mortgages of grieving families.
Also in the race was retired Marine Rob Jones, 30, of Salt Lake City, who did a tour in Iraq and Afghanistan before losing both his legs. “This is my first tower climb, so I was limited as to how fast I could go,” he said. “I had to learn a new technique to bend at the knee. But it was really all about showing support.”
The nonprofit organization was founded to honor FDNY firefighter Stephen Siller, who ran through the Battery Tunnel to get to the World Trade Center on 9/11. He died later that day with 10 other members from Brooklyn’s Squad 1.
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation also organizes a 5k race in memory of Siller, where more than 25,000 runners follow the route he ran that day. Siller, who was raised in Rockville Centre, graduated from St. Agnes High School.