9/11 Heroes: Firefighter Stephen Siller, 34, died trying to save victims on day off
On September 11, 2021, Frank Siller completed his 537 miles journey by foot from Washington DC to New York City, to honor the memory of his brother Stephen Siller, who lost his life in the 9/11 attacks. Twenty years ago, 34-year-old firefighter Stephen Siller died while trying to save the lives of hundreds of others. In fact, it was his day off, but he rushed to the Twin Towers as soon as he heard the news. "I'll see you tomorrow, bro," he had told his brother Frank a day before, a promise that would forever remain unfulfilled.
Commemorating his brother's legacy, Tunnel to Towers Foundation CEO Frank Siller started his journey at the Pentagon, where the hijacked American Airlines carrier hit at 9.37 am on September 11, 2001. From Pentagon, Frank Siller walked to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the United Flight 93 crashed after the 44 passengers onboard succeeded in overpowering the hijackers. It is believed that the plane was headed towards the White House or Pentagon. The horrifying terror attack by Al-Qaeda claimed as many as 2,996 lives and continues to haunt the USA every day since.
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Who was Stephen Siller?
The youngest among seven children of Mae and George Siller, Stephen Siller was practically raised by his older siblings after losing both his parents by the age of ten years. He grew up to be a firefighter, dedicated to save lives and was assigned to Brooklyn's Squad 1. On the fateful day of 9/11, Stephen had finished his shift and was headed to play golf with his brothers in New Jersey on his day off.
He suddenly got word about the plane hitting the North Tower of World Trade Center and decided that he needed to be there. He called his wife Sally and asked her to convey to his brothers that he would meet them later. Meanwhile, he grabbed his firefighting gear, and drove his truck to Manhattan through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. However, the tunnel had been closed by the time for security. Not one to be deterred from his duty, Stephen Siller strappher over 60 lbs of gear to his back, and raced on foot to the Twin Towers. "He ran through that tunnel, came out the other side and saw a horrific scene," his elder brother Frank shared.
The father of five lost his life while saving others, as the towers collapsed during the rescue mission. Two decades later, his brother Frank achieved an unthinkable feat to honor Stephen Siller. Before the last of his 537-mile long walk, Frank believed, "It's going to be very difficult. Of course, I'll be thinking of Stephen.
In six weeks, he walked through six states, eventually following his brother's footsteps to Ground Zero. He later added, "I know the difference: I'm walking, he ran with his gear on. I'm going to see the Freedom Tower and look at what he saw: the Twin Towers on fire, but nonetheless, I'm trying to do something to honor my brother and this is what I thought I could do and I'm glad I did it."
Frank Siller has actually done a lot beyond the 500-mile walk, as he set up the philanthropic organization Tunnels to Towers Foundation in his honor a few years ago. The foundation has raised over $250 million to help others and are still continuing their activities.