Tunnel to Towers Tower Climb honors first responders and military heroes

Hundreds of people gathered at One World Observatory on Sunday to take part in the annual Tunnel to Towers Tower Climb.

The event, organized by the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, honors FDNY firefighter Stephen Siller, who died saving others on September 11, 2001. The foundation's broader mission is to acknowledge the sacrifices of military and first responders who continue to risk their lives for the safety of others.

This year's first finisher was David Roeske, a recurring participant.

"I did it the first time and every year I have been able to come back – it’s a meaningful race – I love participating in this one," Roeske said.

The event strikes an emotional chord for Frank Siller, Stephen's older brother and the Chairman and CEO of Tunnel to Towers.

"It’s very emotional.  It’s always emotional – when I am in this building it's emotional," Siller said.

For some, each step of the climb brings gratitude, while others engage in deep reflection, and some participants do it to cope with the grief that comes from losing someone who you love deeply. 

Like this year's honorary starter, Kerry Varvaro, whose late husband was an officer with the Port Authority Police Department.

"He worked a memorial on 9/11. It was a Sunday, but he always worked 9/11, and he was killed by a wrong way driver on his way in," Varvaro said. 

Varvaro's husband died in 2022, and on Sunday, the widow and mother of four was told that the Tunnel to Towers Foundation would pay off her mortgage.

"I am just happy for the kids," Varvaro said. "This is the house we picked out together to raise our kids in, so it's really special."

Varvaro's family is just one of the many helped by the Tunnel to Towers Foundation through fundraising and other initiatives.