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Ret. FDNY chief honors fallen FFs in One World Trade Center race

Deputy Chief Richard Alles hopes to cut 5 minutes off his time in the run up 104 floors


New York Post

By Larry McShane
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — A Saint Patrick’s Day pint came with a promise.

Retired FDNY Deputy Chief Richard Alles, swayed by a Guinness (or two), agreed last year to join the annual Tunnels to Towers run up the 2,225 steps to the top of One World Trade Center.

The 66-year-old 9/11 veteran returns to lower Manhattan Sunday to again join New York morning radio host Shelli Sonstein and her team from Q-104 Radio for the strenuous fund-raiser honoring the 2,753 World Trade Center victims of Sept. 11, 2001 — including 343 city firefighters.

“She was after me for a couple of years,” recalled Alles with a laugh about the Broadcast Hall of Famer’s invite at the pre-parade breakfast. “She put the arm on me, and I’m like ‘Sign me up! I’m in.’

“The next day I know there’s no turning back, so last year was my first time.”

The 9/11 toll continues to grow more than two decades later. As of this week, 329 FDNY members — mostly retired firefighters — were killed by some type of 9/11-related illness.

In last year’s annual run, Alles and his 27 teammates raised $36,000 for the Tunnels to Towers Foundation after climbing due north up the 104 floors of the building. The money goes toward raising awareness and funds for veterans and first responders in need.

He’s now working with the law firm Barash McGarry as an advocate for the 9/11 community, providing eligible victims with details about their access to benefits linked to the terrorist attack.

Alles’ efforts on behalf of first responders included more than 100 trips to Washington as he teamed up with comedian/activist Jon Stewart in lobbying Congress to pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.

The legislation, approved in December 2015, was named for the highly decorated NYPD officer whose death was linked to exposure to the toxins at Ground Zero.

Zadroga was driving home after an overnight shift when he learned about the plane plowing into the twin towers and quickly reversed course, heading toward the billowing smoke.

Alles, a 38-year FDNY veteran, was finishing up a 24-hour shift in Brooklyn on the morning of 9/11. He was watching the news when reports first broke of the hijacked plane slamming into the North Tower at 8:46 a.m., and was soon heading down to Ground Zero.

“I just remember the work being excruciatingly difficult,” recalled Alles. “The first feeling I had on 9/11 was we were going to be rescuing colleagues and civilians. And we arrived at this site of devastation to find no one.”

The vertical trip from the lobby to the summit took Alles 30 minutes last year, and he planned to shave some time off his performance this time around.

“I’m looking to knock five minutes off,” said Alles, who recalled starting to run out of gas on the 90th floor last year. “In the last six months, I kicked up the cardio training, the StairMaster, all that.”

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