Doug Shaw

I Honor Brave Heroes

Zechariah Cartledge runs to honor police officers, firefighters, and other first responders. This is the 10-year-old's story, in his own words.

I’ve always loved running. I’ve competed in lots of races. Two years ago, I signed up for a race near my hometown in Florida that changed my life.

The race was hosted by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. At the track, I saw people dressed in full firefighter gear. As the race started, I couldn’t believe it—these people were running alongside me! That night, I did some research and learned more about firefighter Stephen Siller’s amazing sacrifice.

2001 The Record

Zechariah runs alongside a police officer in Florida.

He Gave His Life

On September 11, 2001, Siller had just finished his shift in Brooklyn, New York, when he heard some terrifying news. Two planes had crashed into skyscrapers known as the Twin Towers in Manhattan. That’s an area of New York City across the river from Brooklyn. Siller immediately headed toward the scene to help.

The tunnel leading into Manhattan was closed, so Siller couldn’t drive through. But that didn’t stop him. He strapped on 60 pounds of equipment, including boots, a helmet, and a coat, and ran through the tunnel to the towers.

Sadly, Siller was one of more than 400 firefighters, police officers, and other first responders who died when the towers collapsed. They gave up their lives to save others.

Siller’s family started the Tunnel to Towers Foundation in his memory. Each year, the group holds races to honor Siller. People often run in firefighter gear, like Siller did on that sad day, now known as 9/11.

2001 The Record (Bergen Co. NJ)/Getty Images

Firefighters raise a flag at the site of the Twin Towers in New York City after the 9/11 attacks.

A Hero’s Footsteps

I was so moved by that race that I traveled to New York City last year. I ran the Tunnel to Towers race there, along the same path that Siller took on 9/11. It was really emotional. I’ll never forget that race.

It motivated me to start my own group, Running for Heroes. We raise money for Tunnel to Towers.

When I run races now, I dedicate every mile to a different first responder who died in the line of duty. I wear a tag with the name of each hero I’m honoring. If I get tired or feel like giving up, I think of the sacrifice that person made. That keeps me going until I reach the finish line.

So far, I’ve run more than 200 miles and raised more than $50,000. Every day, firefighters and police officers risk their lives to protect us. I’m proud to dedicate my runs to these brave heroes.

1. What inspired Zechariah Cartledge to research Stephen Siller?

2. What is the section "He Gave His Life" mostly about?

3. What motivated Zechariah to start Running for Heroes?

Close-Reading Questions

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