STATEN ISLAND, N.Y., April 19, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation has announced that its major annual fundraiser, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Run, will this year be replicated in hundreds of communities throughout the country on September 11, 2011. In an effort to provide Americans nationwide with an opportunity to personally commemorate the tenth anniversary in their own hometowns, the Foundation has partnered with USA Cares and Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc. to coordinate the nationwide events.
Since 2002, the Tunnel to Towers Run has been held annually to honor the 343 firefighters and first responders who lost their lives on 9/11 and it recreates the final footsteps of firefighter Stephen Siller who was last seen running through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel with sixty pounds of gear strapped to his back en route to the World Trade Center after the attacks. The event, which was originally intended as a way for New Yorkers to honor the fallen heroes, has now become a yearly tribute to everyone who lost their lives that day and transcends the tragedy. Last year, more than 20,000 people attended and took part in the NY event. So far, more than 30 communities have signed up to hold a Tunnel to Towers Run in their own towns, with the goal of one run in 343 different cities across the nation.
"This event began as a way to honor Stephen and his firefighter brothers," said Frank Siller, one of Stephen's siblings and the chairman of the Foundation. "Over the years, through an influx of volunteers, donations and interest, it has continued to grow and evolve. It is now, without question, the one annual event that not only celebrates the lives of everyone who was lost that day, but provides a forum for remembrance of the past and a life-affirming event for the future. We are grateful to have the opportunity to include the entire country in this moving and meaningful event," said Siller.
Each year every branch of the active military is involved in supporting the run as both participants and volunteers. Much of the money raised has gone to support organizations like USA Cares, which provide funds and support for active military who have been severely wounded and family members of the fallen.
"September 11th affected our entire nation, not just New York," said Bill Nelson, executive director of USA Cares. "The nationwide Tunnel to Towers Run/Walks will give communities everywhere the chance to come together and demonstrate that they have not forgotten the sacrifices of that day, or the sacrifice and courage being shown every day in the hills and deserts where our sons and daughters face an unrelenting foe."
Americans across the country are encouraged to organize their own local event and can do so at www.TunneltoTowersRun.org. Organizations wanting to participate as partners are encouraged to sign up as soon as possible as registration ends on June 15, 2011.
About Stephen Siller
On the morning of September 11, 2001, Stephen was off-duty, having just finished an overnight shift, and was headed back to Staten Island to go home to his wife and five children and then to meet his older brothers for a round of golf. After that, it was anyone's guess how Stephen would spend his day: there would definitely be playtime with his five children, time spent with his wife, work done around the house - perhaps he'd invite some of his neighbors over for a barbecue - all of which were typical activities for Stephen.
Instead, he picked up the news on his scanner about the attack on the World Trade Center. He immediately turned his vehicle around, and headed towards the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. When he found that traffic was blocked to enter the tunnel, he strapped his heavy gear to his back, and sprinted along the catwalk towards Manhattan. At the end of the tunnel, Stephen was picked up by a fire crew, and transported to West Street and Liberty, near Ground Zero. His family believes that he attempted to meet up with Squad Co. 1 and raced into the Towers to do what he did best: save lives and comfort survivors. Neither Stephen nor any of his Squad Co. 1 mates survived.
Stephen still lives in the hearts of the Siller family, and in all the lives he touched. His is a legacy of bravery, compassion, and good will that the Siller family wants to see live on. "We kept asking ourselves how we could properly memorialize him," said Russell, Stephen's oldest brother. "We thought about a special dinner or a golf outing," continued Russell. "Then a friend of Stephen's suggested we hold a run through the Battery Tunnel in his honor, and in memory of all those heroes who displayed such bravery on September 11. Because this idea was a reflection of Stephen's spirit, we knew right away that it was perfect. All the pieces began to fall into place, and we realized what could be a more fitting than a run following his footsteps through the tunnel, the very spot where Stephen embarked on his heroic journey."
The Siller family, including Stephen's wife, Sally, her children, his six siblings and numerous relatives, close friends, and volunteers have dedicated their hearts and souls to the run. "We've been moved by the kindness of friends and by those who have chosen to become part of his story," said Russell. "So many people are helping us along the way, offering us untold amounts of emotional and financial support as we prepare for our tenth annual run." Visit www.TunneltoTowersRun.org for more information.
About USA Cares
USA Cares provides grants, counseling and other assistance to help veterans and their families with a variety of needs. By filling gaps in military and veterans support infrastructure, USA Cares has gained expert insight and information about the sacrifices made by the men, women and families of those who have served in the armed forces. They know the unmet needs and can provide the necessary assistance to help keep these struggling families in their homes. Visit www.usacares.org for more information.
About Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc.
The Blue Star Mothers of America, Inc. is a non-partisan, non-political organization. We do not support any political candidate, nor do we endorse any religious organization. The military represents all aspects of America as does our organization. We are mothers who now have, or have had, children honorably serving in the military. We are a non-profit (501[c]3) Veterans service organization supporting our military children while promoting patriotism. Visit www.bluestarmothers.org for more information.
SOURCE Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation