Two years ago Hampton Bays firefighter Jerry Hildreth didn't even know if he would live to see Christmas, that's why after he received the gift of life through a double lung transplant, he vowed to do "everything any anything" he couldn't do before — including participating in the Tunnel to Towers run in New York City.
Over the weekend, he crossed the run, which is a tribute to all 343 firefighters and first responders who died on 9/11, off his list. He finished the three and a half mile course in full-gear in an hour and 20 minutes — his fellow firefighters by his side.
"I wanted to do this and make it public so I can stress the need for donors — all organ donors. They save lives. I am proof of that," he said.
Hildreth, a retired medical technologist at Southampton Hospital, was first diagnosed with emphysema in the early 1990s, but in 2001 and 2002, the disease took its toll on him.
It wasn't until three years ago that he was able to get on a transplant list, receiving a pair of lungs two years ago on Oct. 29 at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.
As part of his recovery, Hildreth, who is a 39-year member of the Hampton Bays fire department, has been spending time working out at the fire department's gym, preparing himself for the tunnel run.
"I couldn't have done any of this without the support of my friends, my family and wife, Sharon, and members of the Hampton Bays Fire Department," he said.
Next on Hildreth's list — jumping out of an airplane.