A large American flag hung between two firetrucks as firefighters dressed in full gear, first responders, military servicemembers, American Legion Family members and others from the community of Hillsdale, Mich., stood beneath it for the start of a run/walk that commemorated the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.
American Legion Leighr A. Wright Post 53’s Running for Heroes 2.5 and 5K run/walk last Saturday honored the lives lost 20 years ago on 9/11 and those since from the global war on terrorism. All funds raised from the event supported the Tunnels to Towers Foundation, which honors the sacrifice of New York Firefighter Stephen Siller who lost his life to save others on Sep. 11, 2001, and the Hillsdale County Fire Association.
Post-9/11 Army veteran and Post 53 Second Vice Commander Corey Murray helped coordinate the Running for Heroes event. After leaving active duty in 2011, Murray joined the Michigan Army National Guard and returned to his hometown of Hillsdale, where he joined the local volunteer fire department “to continue serving and that’s where I discovered that the brotherhood and camaraderie in the fire service is just as strong as that in the military. The fire service brotherhood is enriched in time honored traditions similar to the military and, although I no longer serve as a firemen, honoring the 343 FDNY(New York City Fire Department) firefighters who gave all on that dreary September day 20 years ago in the way we did was both fitting and appropriate.”
After Running for Heroes participants crossed the finish line under the American flag, they walked around a field of 2,977 flags that represented the lives lost Sept. 11. The flags were set up by youth from the Hillsdale College Young Americans for Freedom group. Then at 8:46 a.m. – when the first World Trade Center was struck – Post 53 held a remembrance ceremony.
American Legion honor guard members fired three volleys; first grade students from Hillsdale Academy held an American flag while reciting the poem “O Flag of Our Union” and then they unfurled the flag while attendees sang “God Bless America;” and a wreath was laid by a fallen military servicemember memorial and firefighters memorial.
“Our firefighters strive to live up to the standards set forth on 9/11 by their 343 brothers who disregarded their own safety and charged forward into chaos so that others may live,” Murray said. “We will never forget their bravery, selfless service and honor.”