Firefighter Stephen Gerard Siller lost his father and his mother before the age of ten, and was raised by his older siblings. More than most, he knew that time was precious.
On September 11, 2001, Stephen, who was assigned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1, had just finished his shift, and was on his way to play golf with his brothers when he got word of the first plane hitting the Twin Towers over his scanner. Upon hearing the news, Stephen called his wife Sally and asked her to tell his brothers he would catch up with them later, and returned to Squad 1 to get his gear.
Stephen drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but it had already been closed for security purposes. Determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 pounds of gear to his back, and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he lost his life while saving others.
“While we have time, let us do good” were words that Stephen lived by.
To keep his memory alive, Tunnel to Towers was founded to raise money for wounded and fallen firefighters and veterans and their families. They do so through programs like their annual 5K Run & Walk New York City and “Brother for Brother,” which donates money to burn centers to support fellow firefighters who have been injured in the line of duty.
“Stephen’s life and heroic death serve as a reminder to us all to live life to the fullest and to spend our time here on earth doing good. This is his legacy,” says Erin Albano, a friend of the Sillers and rep. for the organization.
The symbolic retracing of Stephen’s last footsteps isn’t limited to New York participants: over 30 Run & Walk events were held throughout the country this year, and Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walks have been held in places as far as London and Afghanistan.
They also raise money to support their Building for America’s Bravest program, which builds “smart homes” for injured service members returning home.
Each home is custom designed to address the unique needs of each individual, energy efficient, automated and easily accessible—these homes use “adaptive technology” to help their severely injured inhabitants live higher-quality independent lives.
“The waiting list is long, and for every home we build, another three veterans join the list,” said Albano.
“When the call came, these brave service members went. They made extraordinary sacrifices in our place. Please help give them a home they can come home to.”