CINCINNATI - More than 500 people participated in the first Tunnel to Towers run at Spring Grove Cemetery on Sunday.
It honored FDNY firefighter Stephen Siller, who on 9/11 ran several miles in full turnout gear through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center only to lose his life.
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation was created by Stephen Sillers' brothers in New York. They wanted to honor the selfless sacrifice of their younger brother.
George Siller, Stephen's brother, traveled to Cincinnati to see the turnout. "What my brother did was unbelievable but I see since 9/11 there are so many unbelievable people here in this country," said Siller. "And just what's happening here today in Cincinnati, the love and respect they have for their first responders and for the military, it shows great pride in your country."
The money raised will go toward building a "smart" home for Pfc. Kyle Hockenberry , an Ohio soldier who lost both legs and his left arm last year when a terrorist's bomb exploded in Afghanistan.
Hockenberry had a freshly-inked tattoo on his right side when the bomb exploded. It reads, "for those I love, I will sacrifice."
While Private First Class Hockenberry barely survived the blast, his tattoo emerged unscathed. Surgeons left that part of the soldier's torso intact while they scavenged his body looking for skin they could graft over his amputations.
He is now going through rehabilitation at a Texas hospital but his father attended Sunday's run in his place.
"It's an overwhelming feeling of love from our community and people across the nation that they will come out and support Kyle and help build him a home he will have for the rest of his life," said Chet Hockenberry, Pfc. Hockenberry's father.
The first Tunnel to Towers run in New York followed the same path Siller took through the Battery Tunnel from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Every year, more runners have joined the race.
Many run in full firefighting gear, just as Stephen Siller did, to honor him and all the 343 FDNY firefighters who ran toward the disaster and never came home.
Stephen Siller had finished a long shift at Brooklyn's Squad 1 on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. He was on his way home to Staten Island when he heard the report of a plane hitting the north tower of the World Trade Center.
Siller turned his pick-up truck around and headed back to the firehouse. When he got there, the relief shift had already left with the fire truck.
Siller suited up, grabbed his gear, and drove to the Battery Tunnel in his own vehicle. But all the bridges and tunnels were closed after the terrorist attack. Even if police would have let Siller through, he would have been blocked by the traffic stuck in the tunnel -- including responding fire trucks.
So he ran.
He ran all the way through the two-mile long tunnel, hitching short rides with fire trucks before realizing he could run faster than they could drive through the traffic-clogged tunnel.
There were occasional sightings of Stephen Siller. He was last seen near Liberty and West streets, right near the twin towers. His body was never recovered.
Siller's dedication and sacrifice have been honored by runners across the globe. There have been Tunnel to Towers runs in several U.S. cities, and even in Kabul, Afghanistan. The goal is to have 343 annual runs nationwide -- one for each firefighter killed on 9/11.
Cincinnati's first run was organized by Randy Payne, a Kroger employee in Cincinnati who volunteers every year at the Tunnel to Towers race in New York.
Last year, when 9 News first ran an interview with George Siller when profiling his brother's Stephen's courage, Brad Palmer with Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum immediately called and offered the use of Cincinnati's historic cemetery for the city's first Tunnel to Towers run.
The route at Spring Grove Cemetery also included a picture display of Michael Gould, who was killed on 9/11. He worked for Cantor Fitzgerald in the World Trade Center. His parents, Jeff and Kathie Anderson, placed a memorial bench at Spring Grove Cemetery to honor their son and and all who died on 9/11.
"It's about taking that loss and making something very special out of it, giving back, which for me has been so helpful towards my recovery of my loss," said Kathie Anderson.
It was also an emotional end for those participating in the run as pictures of all 343 FDNY firefighters killed on 9/11 were lined up near the finish line.
Tim Wera of Villa Hills crossed the finish line first. "I got goose bumps running through all the pictures and kept thinking of the sacrifices the firemen made," said Wera.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
A full transcript of an interview with a Cincinnati IRS manager didn't change local Tea Party leaders' minds about the still smoldering scandal.