Life is precious.
Few know better only how fleeting life is as our first responders and members of the military.
These brave men and women face dangers every day, all to protect and serve their communities and the United States of America.
blue sky day
On the morning of September 11, 2001, firefighter Stephen Gerard Siller, 34, finished his shift with Brooklyn’s Squad 1. It was a perfect day for a game of golf with his brothers.
Stephen was exceptionally close to his siblings. When he was 8, he lost his father, and a year and a half later, his mother passed away. His older siblings raised him. Like many young people facing personal tragedy, he went through a period of struggle. But thanks to the love of his siblings and the values instilled by their parents, he grew up to be a complete adult and a dedicated firefighter.
More than most, Stephen knew time was precious.
As he drove his truck through busy New York City traffic, he thought about his brothers and how he was going to play the game of his life with them that morning. Stephen relished the thought.
Then, on his truck’s scanner, an announcement came that a plane had struck the north tower of the World Trade Center.
Thousands of people worked in this tower. They would need the help of all the first responders in the area.
Without hesitation, Stephen turned his truck around and returned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1 to retrieve his equipment. While driving he called his wife Sally and asked her to tell his brothers he would catch up with them later.
With his equipment in tow, Stephen drove his truck to the entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but it had already been closed for safety reasons. Stephen wasn’t going to let the shutdown stop him.
Determined to do his duty, he parked the truck, strapped 60 pounds of gear to its back, and ran on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers. Once there, he and the other firefighters began to evacuate people, fight the fires and treat the injured.
Running towards the need for help, not running away from it.
Less than two hours later, both towers were down. Among the lives lost that day was that of Stephen Siller.
His family discovered his truck a few days later, still parked near the tunnel.
No man is an island
Stephen had it all: a wonderful wife, five wonderful children, an extended family and dedicated friends. Where does his inner courage come from?
His parents were lay Franciscans and he grew up under the guiding philosophy of Saint Francis of Assisi, whose encouraging and inspiring phrase “While we have time, do good” were words by which Stephen lived.
Tunnel to the towers
Stephen’s heroic life and death reminded his family that each of us must live fully and spend our time on Earth doing good.
The family established the Tunnel to Towers Foundation in memory of Stephen. T2T, as it is affectionately known, is a public charity dedicated to benefit the families of first responders lost in the line of duty and catastrophically injured service members. Since 2002, this four-star charity has helped catastrophic families and soldiers across the country, even in our own community.
In 2002, the foundation hosted the first annual Tunnel to Towers 5K run and walk in New York City. This event is now considered by many to be one of the best 5K races in America.
But not everyone can make it to New York. Members of the public across the country wanted to participate in their own communities. Soon, T2T 5Ks appeared in cities across the country. Now our opportunity is there.
Sacramento’s William Land Park will host the first annual Sacramento Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk at 9 a.m. on November 6.
Much like the New York event, this event symbolizes Stephen Siller’s last steps from the Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers and pays tribute to the 343 FDNY firefighters, 71 law enforcement officers and thousands of civilians who have lost his life on September 11. 11, 2001.
To participate visit t2t.org. Click Get Involved, then click Register. There you will have the option to register for the event or make a donation. There is also an option to do a virtual race (and you still get the t-shirt). The website has additional details on race day, when to collect t-shirts, fundraising, teams, and more.
Let’s do good
T2T has a four star certification by Charity Navigator – its highest rating. About 93 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to T2T programs and services. T2T President and CEO Frank Siller is an unpaid volunteer.
“While we have time, let’s do it right.” It is wisdom. This is the legacy of Stephen Siller. And this is the opportunity for each of us to act on our own.
We too can run and walk in need of help.
Thank the first responders in our communities and the men and women of our armed forces for their outstanding service.
To quote another hero of this tragic day, Todd Beamer: “Let’s roll!
Send your event for consideration in Susan’s column at [email protected].