DOUG SHAW (Zechariah); kzww/Shutterstock.com (sky)

I Run to Honor Heroes

Ten-year-old Zechariah Cartledge runs to honor police officers and firefighters who died in the line of duty. This is his story, in his own words.

I’ve always loved running. I’ve competed in dozens of races. But two years ago, I signed up for a race near my hometown in Florida that changed my life.

The race was hosted by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. At the track, I saw people dressed in full firefighter gear. As the race started, I couldn’t believe it—these people were running alongside me! That night, I did some research and learned more about the incredible sacrifice made by firefighter Stephen Siller.

2001 The Record (Bergen Co. NJ)

Zechariah runs alongside a police officer in Florida.

A Tragic Day

It was the morning of September 11, 2001. Siller had just finished working the night shift in Brooklyn, New York. He was heading to meet his brothers when he heard some terrifying news. Two planes had crashed into the Twin Towers. The skyscrapers were in Manhattan, an area of New York City across the river from Brooklyn.

Siller got in his truck and headed toward the scene to help. But the tunnel leading into Manhattan was closed, so he couldn’t drive through it.

Siller could’ve stopped there, but he knew thousands of people were in danger. So he strapped on 60 pounds of gear, including his boots, helmet, and coat, and ran through the tunnel toward the burning towers.

Sadly, Siller was one of more than 400 firefighters, police officers, and other first responders who died when the towers collapsed that day. These heroes gave their lives trying to save others.

Siller’s family started the Tunnel to Towers Foundation in his memory. Each year, the group holds races to honor him. People often run in full firefighter gear, just as Siller did on that tragic day, now known as 9/11.

Getty Images

Firefighters raise an American flag at the site of the Twin Towers in New York City after the 9/11 attacks.

A Hero’s Footsteps

I was so moved by the race in Florida that I traveled to New York City last year. I ran the Tunnel to Towers race, along the same path that Siller took on 9/11. It was really emotional.

That race motivated me to start my own group, Running for Heroes. We raise money for Tunnel to Towers. It goes to help the families of 9/11 victims and other causes.

When I run races now, I dedicate each mile to a different first responder who died in the line of duty. I wear a tag with the name of each hero I’m honoring. If I get tired or feel like giving up, I think of the sacrifice that person made. That keeps me going until I reach the finish line.

So far, I’ve run more than 200 miles and raised more than $50,000. Every day, firefighters and police officers risk their lives to keep us safe. I’m proud to dedicate my races to these brave heroes.

1. What inspired Zechariah Cartledge to research Stephen Siller?

2. What is the section “A Tragic Day” mostly about?

3. Compare and contrast the information in the article to the information in the sidebar.

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