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Twenty Years Later; A Story of Remembrance – Part 1
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor
2021-09-08

A two-part series reporting how family, friends, and members of the Fire Department of New York remember the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and how they share the message to "Never Forget."

 

A lone firefighter surveys the remnants of the World Trade Center Towers 

on Sept. 12, 2001

 

            We are approaching the twentieth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.  Most people have no trouble remembering where they were and what they were doing when the news about the attacks was broadcast.

            The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and the heroic actions of passengers who thwarted a

Frank Siller, brother of fallen FDNY firefight-

er Stephen Siller, walks through Easton PA as

part of his 537 mile "Never Forget Walk." 

third attack when they refused to let their captors reach their intended destination, costing the lives of all aboard United 93 when it crashed in Shanksville, PA.

            Nearly 3,000 innocent people died that day.

            Among those who lost their lives in the attacks in Manhattan was firefighter Stephen Girard Siller, one of 343 members of the FDNY who gave their lives while saving others at the Twin Towers in the Financial District of the largest city in the United States.

            Heading home after his shift was over at Brooklyn's Squad 1, Stephen, a married father of five, heard of the attack on the North Tower of the World Trade Center and made the decision to respond and do what he was trained to do – save lives.

            When he arrived at the Brooklyn side of the Battery Tunnel it was already closed to Manhattan for security reasons.  He decided to strap his 60-pounds of equipment on his back and race, on foot, through the tunnel to the towers where he gave his life helping others.

            The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation was founded in December of 2001 to replicate Stephen's footsteps through the Battery Tunnel by holding an annual Tunnel to Towers 5K Run and Walk.  There were about 2,000 participants in the first

Frank Siller addressing the audiance ast part of

the Never Forget activies last Saturday.

race in September of 2002. 

            From that base it grew to more than 70 different events throughout the country.  Along with honoring Stephen, the Siller Foundation also honors United States military and first responders who continue to make the supreme sacrifice of life and limb for our country and communities.

            As the twentieth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks drew near, Stephen's brother Frank Siller, Chief Executive Officer of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, made the decision to walk more than 500 miles from Washington, D.C., to Shanksville, PA, and on to Manhattan, NY to inspire all Americans to come together in unity.

            Called the "Never Forget Walk" his tribute is memorable.

            Along the way, Frank Siller and the Tunnel to Towers Foundation made several stops to help raise awareness of the sacrifices of so many.

            I had the opportunity to be in Easton, Pennsylvania on Saturday when Frank arrived for his stop there.  He walked as part of a large parade, with scores of emergency first responders, down Northampton Ave.  The event was filled with the gratitude of all who watched. 

            Afterward, speakers took to the stage to share words of hope, respect, and appreciation.   Among them, no words were as meaningful as Frank Siller's.

            He spoke passionately of the work the Tunnel to Towers Foundation does, including more than 450 homes delivered or in the process of being delivered.  That includes 200 mortgage-free homes that will be delivered to America's heroes in this 20th anniversary year.

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation's "Never Forget" mobile exhibit.

 

            He said, "This is a promise I want you to make: that when our men and women go out and serve our country, or when our men and women go out and serve our communities and they give their kids a kiss good-bye and they don't come home, we are going to be there to take care of them."

            Also on display at the event was the organization's 9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit.  The 83-foot tractor-trailer transforms into a 1,100 square-foot exhibit used to educate people about the events of the tragic day.  The flow of people visiting the solemn exhibit only stopped when the parade went by and the speakers took to the podium.

            After the parade and the speeches, a barbeque was held in Easton's town square by the Foundation.  Staffed by active and retired New York firefighters and their families, the event was an opportunity to sit and chat with first responders and learn more.

            Some of the retirees have settled in the Pocono Mountain region of Pennsylvania, and a few have migrated further south to our readership area.  The FDNY Pocono Mountain retirees are inviting retired FDNY firefighters in the region to join them at their meetings.  The group meets at 2 p.m. on the last Thursday of every month at Happy Hour, 608 Clermont Ave. in Stroudsburg.

            Receiving a perfect score in accountability and transparency from Charity Navigator, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation donates more than 93 percent of every dollar donated to it, earning them a coveted 4-Star rating for seven years in a row. 

            To learn more about the Tunnel to Towers Foundation or to donate, visit their website at t2t.org.

            The next stop for Frank Siller on his way to the September 11 conclusion of his 537-mile trek to the site of the attacks in Manhattan will be in Morristown, New Jersey.

            Next week: Part 2, Back to Manhattan.

 


 

 

 

 

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