Being in New York on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 exposes you to so many incredible stories of courage, survival, and heroism. While each has its own unique, and at times, heart-wrenching truths, it was the story of firefighter, Stephen Siller, who taught me the importance of never running away from what needs to be taken care of.
On the tragic day of September 11 2001, Stephen was on his way home from work when he got the call to report back to duty. He called his wife, told her what had happened, spun his car around to get his gear, and began making a bee-line for Ground Zero. But Stephen hit a snag, the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel had been closed for obvious reasons, and Stephen was unable to go any further. The universe was quite literally telling him to stop.
In a situation like this, many people would think they did their best, do a U-turn, and head home to the safety of their family in Brooklyn. But not Stephen. As I learned today, as his brother retold this emotional tale on national TV to all those watching, he explained how Stephen had calmly got out of his truck, put on all 27.3kgs of firefighting gear, and ran 5kms to the site of the World Trade Centers.
Stephen never made it home that day. Or the next. Or the day after that. His life was taken from him but his legacy still remains. In honour of his life, Stephen’s brother, Russell, started a charity called the Tunnel to Towers Run, which raises money for victims affected by 9/11. The run has grown substantially since its beginnings, and continues to grow and make the lives of those affected by these terrible events just that little bit better.
But my lesson came from Russell’s mouth today, as he explained that if Stephen taught us anything, it’s to run towards your problems, not away from them. Of course, if he’d run away, he might be here to tell the story, but his commitment to getting the job done, doing the right thing, and helping those in need, have made him a hero. And heroes live forever.
It’s always easy to run away from your problems, or hide from what you know in your heart really needs to be done. But at the end of the day, if we all live selfishly and look out for number 1, what becomes of number 2, 3, 4, or 5? Stephen payed the ultimate price that day, as did many other heroes here in New York, and to honour that, it’s important we take a little piece of them with us, and learn from their bravery.