"There used to be a buzzword 'never forget,'" former Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said at the announcement. "Unfortunately, people are forgetting."
Firefighter Stephen Siller was among the first responders who ran through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center to help. He was one of 2,977 people killed that day.
The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation is turning its attention to include the lives lost since 9/11. It announced that it will pay the mortgages for first responders who died from 9/11-related illnesses and are survived by young children. That includes the family of Firefighter Thomas Oelkers, who died last month, leaving behind his wife Erika and her three daughters. Thomas and Erika bought their home with the hope their girls would grow up there.
"While I am devastated he's not here to enjoy that with us, I am thankful for this program," Erika Oelkers said, choking up.
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Call it a run or a walk or a 5K. Tunnel to Towers has evolved from sadness to becoming an annual ritual for healing.
Tunnels to Towers CEO Frank Siller, a brother of Stephen Siller, said it is time to balance memories with the life those who have passed would want us to live.
"Our heroes that died before us want us to be happy, they don't want us to be sad," Siller said. "So we want to celebrate their lives."