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'Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Run' Builds A Legacy Out Of America's Darkest Day

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) -- The 13th annual 'Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Run' will be held on Sunday. The event started as a grass-roots remembrance and fundraiser named for the FDNY firefighter.

In 2002, there were 2,500 participants. The number has grown every year, and on Sunday, 25,000 are expected.

As CBS 2's Dana Tyler explained, turning the darkest of times in American history into an enduring legacy of bravery, charity, and the resilience of the human spirit, the 'Tunnel To Towers Run' follows Stephen Siller's footsteps.

On September 11, 2001 Stephen had just finished the overnight shift at Brooklyn's Squad 1. He was on his way to play golf when he heard about the World Trade Center attack.

The 34-year-old father of five headed to the Twin Towers, but was stopped at the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, so he strapped on his 60-lbs of fire gear and ran through the tunnel and into history.

Siller was the youngest of seven and his siblings were not surprised by his altruism.

"I'm sure he was thinking about his family as he was running to the towers, but his duty overcame everything," his brother said.

Stephen Siller was one of the 343 New York City firefighters who died. Siller's family created the 'Tunnel To Towers Foundation' in memory of Stephen, first responders and those fighting the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Sillers said that $40 million has been raised over the years for causes including "Building for America's Bravest," which provides homes for critically wounded soldiers.

This year, NASCAR and the New York Jets joined the business. The partnership is also partnering with artist Scott Lebaydoh who's auctioning off his patriotic artwork.

"I have been painting flags for 25 years, one of the reasons I do that is to thank my veterans," he said.

It's an organization that started out of a family's grief, America's grief.

"We know the importance of the mission and couldn't be more honored to do it in his honor. This event has changed our lives and changed many others," Frank Siller said.

CBS 2 is a sponsor of the Tunnel To Towers race and will be airing an hour-long special on Sunday at 10:30 a.m.

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