EDISON — On Sunday, September 26, members of the Girls’ Varsity Soccer team at The Wardlaw-Hartridge School in North Edison participated in The Firefighter Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Run in New York City. The team donated $1,000 to the cause through their participation. Jackie MacLean of South Plainfield, assistant athletic director, coordinated the team’s trip to the fundraiser.
MacLean said that by the time the girls took the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty into Manhattan, the excitement was overflowing. She said most of the race is spent “in a dimly lit, dirty, hot tunnel.” She found herself wondering how Siller found the motivation to run with all of his equipment alone. “As you come out of the tunnel, the cool/fresh air hits you and you see servicemen and women to your left holding American flags and firefighters on your right holding pictures of all the firefighters and police officers lost on 9/11 cheering you on. It’s then that it again becomes so real how many people we lost that day, With that scene around you it really makes you push forward on the run.”
Marisa Carlucci of Edison, a junior, wrote the following poem to capture the day’s events:
We run, we walk, we jog, we spring
To remember the lives of the brave hearts that lived.
And although there were many that perished,
We all think, and we know, and we cherish
Those who helped to save the people of our nation,
Three bold letters the only relation
Between those who fought the danger
And unsuspecting strangers.
And so we run with purpose, with passion, and with pride,
To commemorate those brave ones that lived, and served, and died.
From peace to disaster in a few short hours,
We’ll never forget those beautiful Towers.
Nina Pangan of Colonia, a sophomore, said, “Everyday I go to school and I’m just one person going through the motions with soccer practice, getting to the end of the day. I’ve obviously always been one person, but while running through the tunnel with everyone chanting, “USA, USA!”, it was as if every single person came together as one, accomplishing something bigger than all of us. While crossing the finish line, slapping hands with people I don’t even know, I found out how it truly felt to be an American.”
Jessica Clarke of Scotch Plains, a junior, reflected, “Seeing all of the firefighters of the FDNY who line the streets while you run, holding pictures with the faces of firefighters who gave their lives for us on September 11, 2001 is a truly exceptional experience. While running through the tunnel and to Ground Zero, there is no escaping an overwhelming feeling that you, and the thousands of people running alongside you, are part of something so much greater than yourself, honoring the heroes who fought for the lives of the people in the Twin Towers.”
Skyla Choi of Forth Lee, a junior, “While running the race there are so many feelings that went through my mind, but one that stood out the most was how proud I was to be doing something that meant more than just a run. And, I think it was a great way for the team to build and bond over such an inspiring day.”
Abigail Siegel of Maplewood, junior, added, “Participating in the Tunnel to Towers Run is very inspiring and emotional. Both years while running it, I have found myself in tears for more than half of the race. Watching the firemen in their gear, and the Army, Navy, and police running alongside of me is very moving. This race is very rewarding and I am glad that I could be a part of it for two years in a row.
Catherine Badalamenti of Scotch Plains, a junior, said, “The Tunnel to Towers Run was a truly great experience. The atmosphere and energy given off by all of the participants was unbelievable. When you run in the race, it is almost as if you cannot feel your legs. You just keep running because you know that there is a purpose.”
Janissa Delzo of Middlesex, a junior, added, “There were times during the race when I wanted to break down and cry because of flashbacks of 9/11 and the undeserved deaths, but then I saw the Army, FDNY, NYPD and other servicemen and women running in full gear, proudly cheering everyone on and this inspired me to keep fighting and to realize that no matter how hard life may become sometimes, stay positive. All of the serving men and women who have it harder than me remain positive, brave and strong, so why can’t I?”
Andrea Buitrago of North Plainfield, a junior, shared, “I had to walk this race due to an injury. Even though I didn’t get to participate in the thrill of running, I was able to realize something more valuable while slowing down and taking in the environment around me. Families laughing inside the Battery Tunnel, strangers shaking hands and cheering you on – it was like all of the problems disappeared and our only focus was to get to the finish line with determination.”
Stephanie Smyczek of Edison, a sophomore, shared, “I felt amazing after running the race because I knew that I participated in an event for a good cause and accomplished something greater than myself.”
Anna Stuckey of Highland Park, a senior, said, “I tell myself that if a man can run through that tunnel in full firefighter gear, then I should at least be able to jog without stopping. People on the sides cheer you on and when you finish, you feel accomplished and proud.”
Samantha Barbeito of Edison, a senior, added, “This event was more than just running a race for a time or place. This race was about the lives that were lost that tragic day in history and remembering all of those who were courageous enough to put their lives on the line. To say this race was inspiring would be a complete understatement. It was much more. Words could not describe how I felt as I was running beside the U.S. Army chanting, “USA, USA!” This made me realize that this horrid day did not leave us in fear, but made us strong enough to live our lives the same way we had before – having no fear to walk down the street thinking that another attack would be made. Our nation brought forth unity and pride.”
MacLean said that the girls began to reflect on the meaning of the race as they walked through a street fair at the finish line. “Many had questions about the rebuilding of Ground Zero and Mr. Siller. Many of these girls were between kindergarten and third grade on 9/11. So now that they are older I feel the Tunnel to Towers Run is very much a teaching experience for them. This year we added to our race t-shirts the 343 firefighter and 23 police officer patches representing those lost on 9/11 and most of the girls asked me what it meant when I handed them their shirts. I feel I’m educating a younger generation on how to never forget 9/11 and I hope many of them participate in this race long after they leave Wardlaw-Hartridge.”
RUNNING AND REMEMBERING…Members of the Girls’ Varsity Soccer team from The Wardlaw-Hartridge School in North Edison, are pictured at The Firefighter Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Run in New York City on September 26. Pictured, left to right, are: (front row) Anna Stuckey of Highland Park, Lian Cancryn of Plainfield, Skyla Choi of Fort Lee, Marisa Carlucci of Edison; (second row) Brianna Gutierrez of Metuchen, Stephanie Smyczek of Edison, Samantha Hart of Edison, Haley Needle of Scotch Plains, Danielle Coover of Piscataway, Kyla Houston of Plainfield, Catherine Iszard of Edison, Girls’ Junior Varsity Soccer Coach Rachel Toporek; (third row) Nina Pangan of Colonia, Valentina Margiottiello of Colonia, Jessica Clarke of Scotch Plains, Janissa Delzo of Middlesex, Abigail Siegel of Maplewood, Samantha Barbeito of Edison, Girls’ Varsity Soccer Coach Jackie MacLean of South Plainfield; (fourth row) Kelsey Hart of Edison, Saheela Ibraheem of Piscataway, Mairead Forrest of Parlin, Andrea Buitrago of North Plainfield, Abigail Rogers of Plainfield, Catherine Badalamenti of Scotch Plains, and Girls’ Varsity Soccer Coach Kelly Karp of Edison. Photo by Tanda Tucker
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