I woke up at 5:30 this morning to run. I admit, that is not a phrase I often utter. As a matter of fact, I don’t like to get up at 5:30 a.m. for pretty much anything other than vacation … when I get to sleep on a plane.

I ran in the 7th annual Firefighter Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Run/Walk, which begins in Red Hook and commences by Ground Zero.

Here’s Stephen Siller’s story: On September 11, 2001 Firefighter Stephen Siller had completed his tour and was heading home to his wife and 5 young children. When Stephen heard on his scanner what had happened, he turned his vehicle around and raced back to his firehouse in Brooklyn to get his gear. When, for security reasons he was prohibited from entering the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, he got out of his vehicle, and, with his gear strapped to his back, he began his heroic run. He was last seen alive at the World Trade Center site where he and so many others gave their lives so that others might live.

To honor his memory and that of the other 342 firefighters who lost their lives on 9-11, his family started this annual run. Today, I ran the race with 16,000 people – it was astounding. The run begins in Red Hook and goes through the tunnel. Upon exiting the tunnel, firefighters hold up picture flags of all 343 fallen firefighters. It was one of the most poignant sights I have ever seen.

Waking up at 5:30 a.m. is never fun – but the run was worth every moment of it (even running most of it in the rain and being subjected to Neil Diamond’s “America” more times than I can count). And for those who know me well, the scenery was quite enjoyable, too.

Do yourself a favor and participate next year. It’s for a great cause and is an experience you won’t ever forget.