By Ginger DeShaney

The Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk in South Boston today, Sept. 11, had significant meaning for those who participated.

“It was one of those days in our country where everyone remembered where they were,” said runner Joe Trecarichi. “Our country stopped. Out of tragedy we found the strength to come back.”

The event was all about honoring heroic first responders, he said.

Courtney Sheppeck and Michelle Hynes run every Sunday, so when they heard about the Tunnel to Towers 5K, they signed up. Michelle’s husband is a first responder and she said the race was a way to honor all first responders and to remember 9/11.

“I felt like I was doing something for our community,” Michelle said.

John Dion, one of the organizers, said they usually hold the event on a Saturday, but with the significance of 9/11 they knew it had to be held on Sunday, Sept. 11. Almost 500 runners and walkers participated in the second annual Boston event.

During the opening ceremony, organizer Nick Mancini gave a little history of how the event began.

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation was founded shortly after 9/11 by the brothers and sisters of FDNY firefighter Stephen Siller.

“Stephen was off duty on that fateful day and ready to enjoy a beautiful day of golf when he heard the news. Without hesitation, he grabbed his gear and headed to the Twin Towers but was stopped at the base of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel,” Nick said. “He was unable to drive, though, so he strapped on his 65 pounds of gear and ran through the tunnel to the towers.”

Stephen was one of 343 firefighters to lose his life that day.

“Our goal for all of our events is to honor our local first responders like Stephen and to remember 9/11,” Nick said.

Several firefighters ran or walked the event course in full gear.

Quincy Fire Department and Boston EMS were honored for their fundraising efforts for the event. And sponsor Rob Fitzharris of Roza Lyons was recognized for going above and beyond to help the event.

Since 9/11, the organization has been helping America’s heroes by providing mortgage-free homes to Gold Star and fallen first responder families with young children and by building custom-designed smart homes for catastrophically injured veterans and first responders. The group is also committed to eradicating veteran homelessness and aiding the victims of U.S. disasters.