Tunnel to Towers honors firefighters of 9/11

- More than 100 people will run up 41 flights of stairs - voluntarily - next Saturday morning, and that number could rise in the next week and a half.

"It's kind of the perfect scenario," participant Christa Vutera said.

Vutera is one of four people representing Ryan Companies. The company calls One Tampa City Center home, and that's where the inaugural Tunnel to Towers Tampa Climb will take place on May 6.

The event has two main goals: to honor the first responders that passed away on September 11th and to raise money for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which will use the funds to support the Building for America's Bravest Program, which builds smart homes for multiple amputee veterans.

"It's always good to see when someone comes out and supports those people who put their lives on the line everyday," Sgt. Mike Nicholson said.

Nicholson, one of the foundation's smart home recipients, and Dustin Miller helped bring the Tower Climb to Tampa. Miller had the idea for the event last December. Similar events have been held across the country.

"A lot of the firefighters, first responders, police officers, military, they will actually climb in their full gear," he said. "It's kind of to give everyone the image or an experience of what it's like when on 9-11 when the firefighters were racing up those buildings when everyone else was coming down."

Vutera expects that she'll have an emotional response when finishing her climb after the firefighters.

"I have a feeling that I'll shed some tears," she said. "It's something they do on a regular basis. To see what they actually go through in their gear will be outstanding."

Vutera and her co-workers won't be carrying any gear that Saturday, but they've been preparing for the climb for months. They all want to top their best times.

"The pressure's on for us to practice from now to next Saturday," she added.

While the training's been challenging for the group, fundraising has not. She describes it as an easy pitch, once she explains that money is going to veterans. So far, participants have raised more than $18,000. Miller expects more people sign up prior to the event, which he hopes will grow in the coming years.

To learn more about the event, visit https://www.crowdrise.com/T2TTowerClimbTampa

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