Patty Chang Anker

Some Nerve

Learning from the Bravest of the Brave

A Run Honoring Sept 11 First Responders Offers Lessons in Courage and Grace

Posted Sep 30, 2014


On September 11, 2001 firefighter Stephen Siller (wearing 60 lbs of gear) ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to get to the World Trade Center, where he died when the South Tower fell. This past weekend, Team #SomeNerve joined 25,000 people in retracing his steps in the 13th annual Tunnel2Towers 5K Run & Walk which keeps his memory and raises money for first responders and their families. For someone with anxiety, it was a lesson in courage and grace.

Ever since September 11, many of us have felt nervous at huge public events, uneasy in the press of a large crowd. There were thousands of us waiting to register when the area was cleared for a security sweep. As police dogs went through and a helicopter whirred above, I checked my phone repeatedly for texts from our daughters - we were boroughs away from them, and ever since September 11 the thought of being separated by bridges and tunnels is unnerving, too.

But all around us were men and women in uniform - firefighters suiting up to run, Army and U.S. Marine Academy soldiers in workout shirts, and NYPD on duty officers overseeing it all. Every one of them sworn to protect us, to run toward disaster, not away. There were relatives, too, in memorial shirts and young teens wearing helmets and fire jackets that were heartbreakingly too large for their frames. All of them brave beyond compare.

Brooklyn Battery Tunnel

We ran through the dim and winding 1.7 mile tunnel and emerged to sunlight, bagpipes, and the streets lined with FDNY and NYPD officers holding flags and cheering. “Thank you, thank you” I said to as many as I could. Thank you for your bravery then and now.

The race finished at the World Trade Center Memorial Fountains, where water washed down as the Freedom Tower sparkled upwards, both seemingly without end.

Everything changed on September 11. For many it created huge new anxieties. But being in the presence of so many first responders and seeing how truly indomitable the human spirit can be was tremendously reassuring. Even if we feel surrounded by reasons to worry, we are actually surrounded by reasons to take heart and take action in the world. At all moments there are people willing to lay down their lives for you. Let's take that knowledge as a mandate to live our lives to the fullest and to be the bravest we can be.

Freedom Tower