Locals honor 9/11 first responders one step at a time

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – More than 150 people laced up their running shoes or their work boots for a climb up a tower in downtown Tampa this morning.

It was all to honor the first responders of the 9/11 attacks while raising money to build smart homes for amputee veterans.

The climb took place at Tampa City Center with climbers running and walking up 41 stories—that’s a little shy of 600 steps.

As first responders and others lined up one by one, Sally Siller took her turn.

“This was my wedding anniversary this weekend,” Siller said. “My 27th wedding anniversary.”

Sally’s husband, New York firefighter Stephen Siller, was there in spirit.

“Each day is bittersweet because I’m so grateful that I had Steve but to life without him is so difficult because I know what a gift he was to the world,” she told News Channel 8.

During the last few minutes of his life, Stephen Siller strapped on his gear and ran three miles until he got to the towers.

Siller would never leave the towers and did leave his wife and their five children behind.

Fellow first responders know the dangers of the job all too well.

“We all know in the back of our mind we’re going into a dangerous situation that could be it,” Mark Handwerk of Largo Fire and Rescue told News Channel 8.

But it wasn’t just a climb for first responders.

People like Cindy Williams, who lived just across the river in New Jersey back in 2001, had family members in the towers that fateful day. Fortunately, they survived.

“I feel so emotional for the people who would love to do something like this but they’re not here anymore,” Williams said as she stood outside waiting for her 41-story trek.

Sally knows it’s people like Cindy who help to keep her husband’s memory alive.

“The people who remember and the volunteers are the ones who sustain us and moving to the future to help people,” Sally told us.

The money that’s raised goes towards building smart homes for severely injured veterans. One house has already been built in the Tampa area.

If you would like to take part in future climbs or any of the 5K races or simply donate money, you can log on to T2TClimb.org.

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