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Joann Muncey was sleeping after a long night of work when disaster struck Sept. 11, 2001.
Muncey, program manager for the routine assistance team at Radcliff-based military charity USA Cares, was working for UPS at the time and said her sister called and told her to turn on the television. Like most watching throughout the nation, the stark images and brutality of the attacks gripped her with shock and a feeling of disbelief.
“This can’t be real,” she recalled thinking to herself.
As reality set in, she accepted she was watching live footage rather than a Hollywood film, powerlessness overtaking her.
“Devastation because you realize you can’t do anything,” she said. “I’m stuck here in Kentucky and they’re in New York and at the Pentagon. It’s a feeling of pure helplessness.”
With the 10-year anniversary of the attacks just days away, Muncey has assembled a team of staff members to honor the fallen Sunday during the first local Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Run in Radcliff. Dubbed the R.A.T (Routine Assistance Team) Pack, Muncey’s squad have committed themselves to fitness and losing weight, with Muncey losing roughly 80 pounds in the past two years.
Since May, the group has been running 5Ks and Muncey said the goal is to run rather than walk the roughly 3.1-mile stretch.
The run is named in honor of Stephen Siller, a Brooklyn firefighter who was heading home from a late shift to play golf with his brothers when he heard news the first plane had hit. He phoned his wife and informed her he would be late because he had to assist and returned to his station to retrieve his gear. Upon arriving at the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel,
Siller found it was closed to traffic, so he finished the rest of the journey to the towers on foot with all of his gear strapped to his back.
Siller died during the rescue efforts, but his legacy lives on annually in Manhattan as the Tunnel to Tower Run traces the steps Siller took to the towers. This year’s New York run is scheduled for Sept. 25.
But the runs have expanded across the country. Local efforts by USA Cares and other organizations, including the Fort Knox Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army, the Fort Knox Federal Credit Union and Snap Fitness in Radcliff, have brought the run to Hardin County. The city of Radcliff and Fort Knox also have assisted.
Roger Stradley, founder of USA Cares, said the Radcliff run is the only one scheduled in Hardin County this year, but runs also are planned in Lexington and Louisville.
Registration begins at 7 a.m. Sunday with the run starting at 8:46 a.m., said Gene Gudenkauf, president of the Fort Knox Chapter of AUSA. The start shadows the time of the attack on the first tower.
Registration is $25 and the fee is $15 for those wishing to volunteer, he said. Online registration also is available at www.tunneltotowersrun.org through Friday, but Gudenkauf said the cost is slightly more.
One Radcliff firefighter and one Fort Knox firefighter will be sent to New York City in late September to participate in the national run, he added. Participants can run, walk, crawl or roll their way to the finish.
The run starts at the Radcliff Square Shopping Center and travel up northbound U.S. 31W to Redmar Boulevard, Radcliff Police Department spokesman Bryce Shumate said. Northbound U.S. 31W will be closed from about 8 to 10 a.m. from Lincoln Trail Boulevard to Knox Avenue, Shumate said, and traffic will be diverted onto Wilson Road. Shumate said southbound U.S. 31W traffic will be unaffected.
Gudenkauf said there will be morning worship services before the run to accommodate those who are missing their routine church services.
Dave Ohler, owner of Snap Fitness, said he became involved with the run after planning to hold a 5K in the city to promote fitness. When he learned about plans for the Tunnel to Towers Run, he recognized an opportunity to combine the efforts.
At the same time, Ohler said, it serves to honor a true hero willing to offer his own life on behalf of others.
“What he did, (it’s) incredible,” Ohler said of Siller. “He had every opportunity to go home. Look at that for a minute, they had road blocks there in front of him.”
Radcliff resident Victoria Chevalier was 18 and living in the Atlanta, Ga., area on 9/11. She was visiting her sister the day of the attacks and remembers her rapt fixation on the television as she poured out tears for those who lost their lives and the nation as a whole.
Chevalier said it was a life-changing moment crystallized in the minds of Americans as most can remember their exact location when the event happened.
By age 23, Chevalier had joined the military to provide balance to her life after years of “freewheeling” with no direction.
Chevalier said the U.S. Army gave her the structure she needed to force her to grow up, and it introduced her to her husband, Andre, an Arizona native. Chevalier said the two never would have met otherwise.
Chevalier since has retired from the Army and is pursuing a degree to become a science teacher as she waits for her husband to return from a deployment in Afghanistan as part of the 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. She also is a mother of 15-month-old Ella.
Ella will join her in a stroller Sunday as she hits the pavement to honor Siller’s sacrifice and memorialize those lost 10 years ago. But her running days are over.
“I thought I was going to die in basic,” she said with a laugh.
Chevalier said it is the thought that counts and said her walk will not even be comparable to Siller’s journey because she will not have to carry 80 pounds or more on her back. Muncey agreed and said her experience is much different than Siller’s, but it’s a small way in which they can honor his service.
“It would be astronomical to run in his shoes,” Muncey said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or email@example.com.