Syracuse Firefighters training for New York City

Off-duty Syracuse Firefighters are training for the Tunnel to Towers Race / Photojournalist Brian Erb

Off-duty Syracuse firefighters--thirty of them--are doing training runs daily, getting ready for the New York City Tunnel for Towers Race later this month. They expect to be competitive in the race's Brother to Brother division: 50 fire departments competed last year, and Syracuse was #2--Firefighter Ted Ackerman says they'd like to win this year, on September 25th.But the race is only one part of the competition: Firefighters are also collecting donations, and they've already won on that.As of Tuesday, they were at $14,000, well over their $10,000 goal. That should make the Syracuse Fire Department number one in pledges collected. "It means a lot to the FDNY to know how much Syracuse supports them," says Ackerman. Half the donations go to University Hospital's burn unit, the other half to the Steven Siller fund--he was an off-duty firefighter who ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunel to the World Trade Center site, and died on 9/11. The fund helps the familes of all 9/11 fallen firefighters.

After the race, the Syracuse delegation will present its check to the Siller family, along with panels that already hold hundreds of Syracuse-area signatures. Among the public places where they've been collecting, at a Living Tribute staged outside Syracuse's MOST on 9/11 Sunday, and at the Carousel Center. "I think it was meaningful for them to sign," says Ackerman. 9/11 is more than a day's observance to firefighters, and through this, the whole community can feel part of the ongoing tribute.

The Syracuse FD team of thirty is the biggest in the 5 years they've competed. "We'll go down together, we'll eat together," says Ackerman. And they take the fundraising seriously, as a team...but when it comes to the race, it's an individual effort and 'it's hard to hold back.'