Foundation Formed in Honor of Stephen Siller's Heroic Run Through Battery Tunnel to WTC on 9/11 Continues to Grow
By now, Stephen Siller's heroic run through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center on 9/11 is well-known, and so is the foundation created by his family in his honor. NY1's Amanda Farinacci reports on the not-for-profit that grew from the September 11th attacks and now has national recognition.
For the last 14 years, at the end of September, thousands of runners pack the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, retracing the steps of firefighter Stephen Siller.
The Staten Island resident strapped on 60 pounds of gear and ran from the Brooklyn side of the tunnel to the World Trade Center, where he died.
The race, called Tunnel to Towers, started with just 300 runners and now has grown to attract more than 30,000.
"We started out with very humble beginnings," said Frank Siller of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation. "We weren't trying to do anything spectacular other than the importance of remembering what Stephen did, and what so many people did that day."
But humble beginnings quickly grew.
In the 15 years since Stephen Siller died, the foundation formed in his honor has grown by leaps and bounds.
Using race entry fees as seed money, Tunnel to Towers has built a house for orphaned children at the New York Foundling, and helped injured soldiers adjust to life back at home.
The not-for-profit raised money to pay off mortgages for the families of two slain city police officers and runs a mobile exhibit that travels around the country to tell the story of 9/11.
When Hurricane Sandy hit, the group, and its massive network of volunteers, was at it again.
"It hit in our backyard," Frank Siller said. "If we didn't do something, we're not who we say we are."
Siller's work often brings him to the World Trade Center site, a place that can still bring him to tears. He says seeing the names of those who died along with his brother serves as a reminder of the mission for the organization he runs with his brothers and sisters.
"Goodness trumps and beats evil every time," he said.
Tunnel to Towers is launching a new fundraising effort, this one asking for just $11, money that will be used to help build smart houses for soldiers returning home with debilitating injuries.
"Ask 11 people to donate $11, and so on and so forth," Frank Siller said. "It can make a huge, huge difference. And we want it to be a grassroots effort."
After all, Siller says, that's what his brother would have wanted.