Skip to main content

South Salt Lake Journal

First responders race in full gear at annual 5K fun run

Oct 05, 2021 09:27AM ● By Bill Hardesty

Firefighters from SSLFD finish the race. (Bill Hardesty/City Journals)

By Bill Hardesty | [email protected]

The third annual Tunnel To Towers 5K fun run was held at Memory Grove in Salt Lake City on Sept. 18. Participants ran up City Creek onto North Canyon Road and back.

While Tunnel to Towers races are held at numerous locations, with the main one in New York City, JD Weston, SSLFD paramedic/firefighter, and his wife, Tracy, headed up the efforts in Utah.

“The race is one way to say thank you to our first responders and military personnel,” Tracy Weston, the race director, said.

About 190 individuals ran in the race many of them in full-duty uniform. For police officers, that is an extra 30 pounds of gear. For firefighters running in their turnout gear and other equipment, they are carrying about 60 pounds. In addition, two participants from Unified Fire ran with an oxygen tank and oxygen mask. 

“The race is growing every year,” Tracy Weston said.

With any race, even a fun race, there are winners: Under 15 division Dominik Ruiz, Andy Sheppard and Beckham Harrison; Civilian women Tiffany Gabriel, Sammy Delli, and Casey Jones; Civilian men Michael Brahman, Brian Winn, and Craig Norton; Police (all SLCPD) Brent Weiss, Peter Burgoyne, and Monica Roop; and Fire Heath Banbury (Unified Fire), Megan Fenton (Unified Fire) and Lyndsie Hauck (South Salt Lake Fire).

Tunnel to Towers Foundation

The Foundation was created to honor firefighter Stephen Gerard Siller. On Sept. 11, 2001, he was assigned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1 and had finished his shift. He was on his way home to play golf with his brother. On his scanner, he got word that the first plane had hit Tower 1. Siller called his wife to cancel the golf date. He returned to the fire station and got his gear. Siller drove to the mouth of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but it was already closed for security reasons. With a sense of duty, he strapped on 60 pounds of gear and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers. He gave his life at Ground Zero, helping people.

The Foundation’s goal is to support families of those who die in the line of duty or Gold Star families. The Foundation’s primary support is paying off the mortgage of families with children.  

In Utah, the Foundation paid off the mortgage of Officer David Romrell, an SSLPD officer killed in November 2018. They did the same for Major Brent Taylor, killed in Afghanistan June 2020.

The Foundation also builds mortgage-free smart homes for injured veterans and first responders. Each home is designed to meet the unique needs of each individual. The Foundation has built two such homes along the Wasatch Front.

9/11 in New York City

Members of the B platoon of the South Salt Lake City Fire Department decided to be in New York City for the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack. It took nine months of planning and working around COVID-19 restrictions.

This was not an official trip. So, the group did some of the tourist stuff, but the high point was the 9/11 museum. 

“Honestly, as soon as you walk in the building, you have chills the whole time while you’re in there, from start to finish,” JD Weston said.

He described how hearing all the PASS devices going off hit him the hardest. Firefighters wear the PASS (Personal Alert Safety System) device. A pre-alarm sound goes off after 20 seconds and a full alarm goes off at 30 seconds when a firefighter is in distress. The purpose is to make other firefighters aware that a firefighter is down. During the recovery for 9/11, the devices continued to go off, but firefighters could not reach those wearing them.

Another exhibit at the museum that stood out to JD Weston was on the rescue/recovery dogs. 

“They had a whole wall dedicated to the dogs that assisted with finding victims and bodies in the aftermath,” JD Weston said. “All the dog photos are from 2011 in the museum. All the dogs are gray around the muzzle, and you can’t but think of them as you would a World War II vet—nothing but respect and admiration for the work they did at Ground Zero. They are special animals.”

JD Weston’s partner, Sammy, described her experience as humbling. She was three at the time of the attack.

“You learn about it in school and from people, but to go stand at Ground Zero and hear everyone’s story, made the experience very humbling,” Sammy said.