Friends and family remember Stephen Stiller's 9/11 deeds - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Runners brave late summer heat to honor a hero

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Hundreds of runners, including some first responders of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, braved the late summer heat to participate in Cincinnati's second annual Tunnel to Towers run on Sunday.   

The 5K race is held to honor Stephen Stiller, a New York firefighter who rose to the call of duty when he heard one of the Twin Towers was hit by a plane on his lieu day.

Jack Kielty, a Lieutenant with the New York City Fire Department, worked with Stiller and calls his story "remarkable."

Kielty says that a morning scheduled for golf quickly turned into a day of action for Stiller.

"He got off that day and was going to play golf with one of his older brothers. He was driving home. He was in Squad-1 of our rescue companies, he's got a scanner, hears on the scanner that a plane hit the towers, turns around and gets back to Squad-1," said Kielty.  

When Stiller found out that Squad-1 was en route to the Towers, Kielty says that Stiller decided to join them at the site.

"He could have turned around," said Kielty. "He was trying to do the right thing."

Stiller's older brother Frank also reflects about passion to help and says that Stiller faced roadblocks to get to the hundreds of people affected by the attack.

"He drove to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel which was closed for security reason, strapped 65 pounds of gear on his back and ran the tunnel alone," said Stiller.

Stiller says his brother ran nearly two miles through the tunnel to reach victims and gave up his life.

Twelve years later, the Stephen Stiller Towers to Tunnel Foundation hosts a series of 5K races in ten cities around the country, including Cincinnati.

Frank Stiller says proceeds from this year's race will help build a home for U.S. Army veteran Kyle Hockenberry, who lost both legs and his left arm. "

"These guys need special houses....adapted houses for them so we never forget, we want to honor the sacrifice by building these houses," said Stiller.

The specially adapted houses are called smart houses where appliances, heating and air conditioning and other household functions can be controlled through an I-Pad and Hockenberry's house will have a physical therapy room where he can continue rehabilitation.

For more information about the Tunnel to Towers race, visit the official website.

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