Tunnel to Towers: Continuing Det. Joseph Seals’ legacy by climbing for a cause

Laura Seals vividly remembers the first time she saw him, Detective Joseph Seals.

"I was going to school, right? I think it was next to the bank. He was working off-duty jobs," she recalls. "I would walk a lot, like a couple blocks away, and then walk with my sister to that school for classes, and I just saw him standing outside."

Detective Seals seemed to be always there, consistently working off-duty jobs near her college in Jersey City – "every time I would walk, I would see him come out, right, and then he just turned red and, you know, smiled."

Their first dates eventually led to marriage and a family of five children. Joseph was not just a father but a gentleman. 

"He was very old school," Laura says. "He would open the door for me. He told my boys to make sure your mom, your sister, your grandma, whoever females with you walk on the inside of the sidewalk."

Detective Seals was also a dedicated cop. 

"He never stopped. He was consistent," recalls Anthony Scally, who served with him in the Jersey City Police Narcotics unit. "Worked every day, tried to get an arrest every day. There was not a lazy bone about him."

Jersey City shooting

On Dec. 10, 2019, while working overtime, Detective Seals was fatally shot during a confrontation with two suspects in a cemetery while on patrol. The incident marked the start of a high-profile assault. The suspects then attacked a Kosher grocery store in Jersey City, taking the lives of three people before being killed by police after a standoff in the store. The loss of Detective Seals was deeply felt during that night's press conference.

"One of the leading officers for getting the most guns off the street, from what I understand. He was also a husband and father of five children."

"It breaks you," Laura says.

Keeping a family together after such a shattering moment is almost impossible, but Laura found help in the form of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

Frank Siller announced: "To the family of Detective Joseph Seals, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation is going to pay your mortgage so you never have to worry about your mortgage again."

"They don't just give you the home," Laura explains, "but they offer their support, and they're always there with you throughout your new journey."

The journey also took her on a climb. Laura created The Seals 766 team, completing the 104-story Tower Climb last year with her son Ethan and Joe’s colleagues. She spoke at the finish, saying, "This is why we climb. They know what the foundation did for me. Our mission is to help everyone."

Anthony adds: "The first time last year, I was struggling. But you don't give up."

Anthony and Laura are both ready to do it again this year with The Seals 766 team. "It's like you're doing it for him, his family. You're not doing it for yourself," Anthony says.

"That's how I keep him with me," Laura says, reflecting on the first time she saw him and how they've always been together. "It's a good day, and then once you get upstairs at the top and you see the view and you see everybody, you're no longer tired. Everything just goes away."

It’s not too late to donate to Laura’s Seals team at nyctowerclimb.t2t.org.

FOX 5 NY's special Tower of Heroes report will air in its entirety on May 23 at 10:30 p.m.