"We're never going to forget" 5k honors 9/11 firefighters

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Saturday, September 7, 2019

News 12 at 6 o'clock

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- Dozens of people ran a 5k today to honor those who lost their lives in 9/11. The race started at 8:46 am, which is the time the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center nearly 18 years ago.

"Make sure that we remember," said John Ryan, former New York firefighter. "We all said we would never forget that day and so it's an opportunity for us to live that mantra. We're never going to forget."
And 18 years later, they still don't forget.

People remember exactly where they were when tragedy struck in 2001.

"I had just got off that morning," said Tony Smiley, who was working in Augusta at the time.

"I was actually in school," said Rey Ruiz, who is a now a firefighter with Smiley.

Today, dozens of people ran at Augusta University to honor those who lost their lives.

"There were 343 firefighters that perished that day, and that still hurts," said Ryan.

Each runner was given a badge with the name and title of each firefighter who died. Ryan said it was a nice snapshot, but didn't tell a story of who that person was. Hung up along the edge of the amphitheater were 343 pieces of paper. Each one had the name, picture, and bio for one of the firefighters who died.

"We thought it would be a good idea to take that photo and give a two or three paragraph synopsis of the highlights of that man's life," Ryan said.
One of those who died was Stephen Siller, the man who inspired the race. Siller ran three miles in full gear through a tunnel to get to the World Trade Center.

He never made it home.

The firefighters said that gear weighs up to 60 lbs. but some of them still took on the challenge of wearing it in today's race. Ryan's wife Cornelia saw a boy marveling at the uniform.

"Before the race started there was a young man just in awe of the firefighters in their full gear," she said. "And he was like 'You're going to run in that?' and another firefighter took him to the side and said 'Hey, let me tell you what his means.'"

Those men were Cruz and Smiley. They ran...in full gear...just as Siller did.

"It's definitely a remembrence for those guys, all the first responders that were there and lost their lives," said Cruz.

"It's a family. It's a brotherhood that we have. Brotherhood relationship," added Smiley.

The two didn't directly lose anyone in 9/11 but they say that brotherhood is what brings them to run.

"We spend one-third of our lives togther being a firefighter," Smiley said. "So that's our family away from our original family."

Augusta University's Army ROTC cadets ran with their 35-lb. backpacks on as well. They ran to represent one of their own, U.S. Army Ranger Major Stephen Long.

"He made it out of the Pentagon alive, but he decided to go back and save lives of the folks in the Pentagon," said Peter Ahching. "He's credited for saving three people and he died from smoke inhalation."

While lugging pounds of equipment could never compare to what thousands went through nearly 18 years ago, they said it's an honor to help keep their sacrifices alive.

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