New York firefighter Stephen Siller was on his way to play golf with his three brothers when he received the call on that fateful day: Sept. 11, 2001.
He drove his truck to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, strapped on 60 pounds of firefighting gear, and set out on foot, running the almost two miles underground, to meet his company at the site that came to be known as Ground Zero.
“He came out the other side, went up West Street … and into what we believe was the South Tower, because that’s where his whole firefighter company was,” Stephen’s older brother Frank Siller told The Epoch Times.
“And so, he never came home.
“While he was helping save other people’s lives, he gave up his own.”
After Stephen’s family found out about what he did, they decided to honor his memory, and those of countless other first responders who’ve sacrificed their lives, and started Tunnel to Towers—a foundation to build homes for first responder families who’ve lost loved ones or sacrificed in the line of duty.
In that effort, on August 1, 2021, Frank set out to walk over 500 miles to honor his brother, and those who died on September 11. Starting from the Pentagon where he laid a wreath, Frank is currently marching toward Shanksville, and will reach his final destination, Ground Zero, for the 20th anniversary of 9-11.
“I hope to shine a big light on what happened 20 years ago, that we lost 2,977 Americans, many of whom are first responders,” he said, while walking.
Preparation began months earlier, though; thus far, he’s been averaging 13 to 15 miles a day on his journey some 40 days to Manhattan. So far, he’s right on schedule.
Frank says he’s set to arrive in Shanksville—where Flight 93 went down that fateful day—this Saturday, August 21.
Tunnel to Towers hopes to muster one million supporters, Siller said. Those who wish to contribute $11 a month will help 200 catastrophically injured service members or first-responder families who’ve lost a loved one obtain mortgage-free homes and other living assistance.
Frank and his foundation aim to give back to those like his brother who devote their lives to helping others.
“Stephen died the way he lived: for others,” Frank recalled.
Stephen always wanted to help out, the brother added. His was a personality like many first responders’ of always wanting to be there to help somebody.
“Of course, he did it to the ultimate degree by giving his life,” Frank added. “But it didn’t surprise us as a family that he did that, and it didn’t surprise us that he found a way to get there, and it didn’t surprise us that he ended up going through that tunnel.
“He inspired us, but he didn’t surprise us, all those things, that he did, that’s just the type of person he was.”