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Tolan presented with Follow in the Footsteps Award

Courtesy photo Alpena Township firefighter Tom Tolan accepts his Follow in the Footsteps Award from the Tunnel to Towers Foundation which acknowledges a firefighter for his exemplary service and following in the footsteps of New York firefighter Stephen Siller, who laid down his life to save others on Sept.11 after the terror attack on the World Trade Center.

ALPENA — An Alpena Township firefighter was honored Saturday for his dedication to the firefighting profession, and work in the community.

During the annual Tunnel to Towers 5K on Saturday, longtime firefighter Tom Tolan was presented the prestigious Follow in the Footsteps Award from the Tunnel to Towers Foundation. The award acknowledges a firefighter for his exemplary service and following in the footsteps of New York firefighter Stephen Siller, who laid down his life to save others on Sept. 11, 2001 after the attack on the World Trade Center.

Tolan, who has been a firefighter for 32 years, said he was unaware that he was the recipient of the award until the person presenting it began to list off his achievements and personal facts about him. He was then able to connect the dots and concluded he was the one being talked about.

Tolan said even though he received the award days ago, he is still speechless and humbled for being selected. He dedicated the award to all of the other firefighters, family, and friends who have supported him over the decades.

“I have a flood of different emotions going through me and I don’t know where to start about how I’m feeling,” he said. “My first thought is I wasn’t worthy of it. None of this would be possible without the people around me and who work alongside me.”

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation raises money to pay for smart homes for those who have experienced catastrophic events, or first responders or veterans. One such home was built north of Alpena in 2016.

This year’s event in Alpena had several hundred people turn out with some of the participants doing the 5K in firefighting gear.

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