There was a major shift in paradigm in NYC during the 2015 Papal visit, and everyone felt it – a sort of renewed humanity, a new semblance of order in New York City, in this, our modern culture, where indifference and detachment are all too commonplace.
Pope Francis, a magical, adorable and uplifting life force, that stopped by for a quick reality check, was the catalyst for a surprising and sudden ‘change in the air.’ His Franciscan message, the very same elementary principles most of us were taught in elementary school, was always very clear, ‘while we have time, let us do good.’ With each kind word, each heavenly gesture, each heartfelt handshake, each peck on a child’s cheek and with each blessing, we were in perpetual awe of his unwavering ability to continue to inspire, to give back. We wanted what he had and we listened with open ears as The Pope repeatedly spoke the words of his mentor St. Francis, by saying “While we have time, let us do good.”
Firefighter Stephen Siller, a 9/11 first responder (the lone ‘bravest’ that ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel in full gear, after hearing the news of the attacks on the towers) had that St. Francis message instilled in him at a very young age. His parents were devout lay Franciscans and practiced those principles while raising Siller, and his siblings. Although his parents died when Firefighter Siller was still a child, the Franciscan message that he had been taught, had left a strong impact on him. Siller ran into his fate, in the time he too, thought he had, to do good. His Franciscan beliefs then, aligned with those of Pope Francis’s now. And so, in spirit, a spirit remains.
In honor of Siller’s heroism, his family organized a special tribute to celebrate his life and his mission and created the “Tunnel to Towers Run” 14 years ago. The sole purpose of the Foundation is to honor Siller’s legacy of love and to follow his footsteps (literally and figuratively) in support of firefighters, children who have lost a parent, and our armed forces who were seriously injured and forced to sacrifice their quality of life in the line of duty, while practicing the very work of St. Francis.
Those of us that ran this years Tunnel to Towers race, ran the route that Stephen ran on that fateful September morning. At nearly the same time, with the same intention, (to get going and give back) in support of the Stephen Siller Foundation – over 30,000 people made the time to do a lot of good – to raise awareness for the benefit of others, to honor all those whose lives were lost on 9/11 and to remember and provide for those soldiers who almost gave their lives while trying to do the next right thing. We joined forces to celebrate a kinder way of living – the Franciscan way of life – by placing one foot in front of the other and giving back to the community.
It has been said that there are no coincidences in life, and perhaps that is so. While the earth and the sky prepared for a total lunar eclipse and the moon turned blood red, on the very same day as the Stephen Siller 9/11 memorial run, and during the same week that the Pope was celebrating his first papal visit to New York, it would seem that St. Francis himself were among us, acting as the director, staging divine intervention and dedicating this performance, this celestial connect to those of us that have the power to run the race, talk the talk and take the time to do some good.
Photographs by C.Greene and Viva Violeta Photography