9/11 survivor from Western New York pays back first responders, in her own way


CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – On Saturday morning, Lisa Amatura went on a run that was 19 years in the making.

In 2001, on September 11th, she was one of several workers from the Ingram Micro Williamsville office to be in Manhattan. She attended a meeting on the 78th floor of Tower 1 of the World Trade Center.

“It was just what we thought was an explosion of some kind, a lot of paper and debris,” she recalled.

“I got to my feet and made my way down to the stairwell,” she added. “It took about an hour to get down 78 flights of stairs.”

About 15 minutes later, Tower 2 fell. By then, Amatura had made her way to safety. Just two days later, on September 13th, she found out she wasn’t alone that day.

“I found out I was pregnant with my second daughter,” Amatura said. “She’s 19 now. She joined her sister, who was two at the time. They’re 21 and 19 today. I have a nine-year-old. So three girls who are able to tell the story.

“I was spared that day.”

Amatura credits the first responders who helped her: people like Stephen Siller. He is why she was running on Saturday. Siller is the inspiration for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

“Stephen Siller was a firefighter who was off-duty when the plane hit the tower. He found out about it, and went to his firehouse. But they had left already. So he drove to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. When he was cut off, he strapped on all of his gear and ran through the tunnel to the towers,” said Jennifer Hermann, who is the director of the Tunnel to Towers Buffalo 5K fundraiser.

The 5K is held every year, except in 2020. You can thank COVID-19 for that. But the virus didn’t stop the Cheektowaga Police Department’s SWAT team from running on Saturday. They kept the number of participants down, and still managed to raise money for the foundation.

“That meant a lot to us, because with everybody being out of work, and a lot of businesses being closed, we didn’t want to reach out to them because of the situation,” said Jason Webb, who also serves as race director.

Of course, the officers from Cheektowaga were more than happy to let Amatura run with them.

“I would just urge people to go out and do for others, hug your kids and your family members, and try to pay it forward in a small way, every year (on September 11th),” she said.

Hermann and Webb plan on bringing the 5K back again in 2021.

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.

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