We were delighted that Melissa Parson’s hubby, Tony Cruz, was able to join us today and speak a=on this important cause. Tony said that he was a 20-year veteran as a volunteer firefighter and works with three different agencies and has also worked in law enforcement at the local as well as federal level. He is an electrician by trade.
Tony recounted the story about how this organization originated following 911 in memory of Brooklyn firefighter Stephen Siller, a firefighter and Rescue 1, who left after his shift early that morning and was looking forward to playing golf later that day with his brothers. On the way home, he heard about what had happened in New York City and headed to Manhattan. Along the way, Tony said, he was not able to get through a major tunnel so he put his gear (65 pounds in weight)  on and ran the entire rest of the way to the World Trade Center towers which happened to be an exhausting 4 miles away! Unfortunately, Stephen along with 9 others from his unit died that day when the towers collapsed.
The Siller family wanted to do something to honor their family member who was the youngest of 7 children who decided to help people by becoming a firefighter in the City of New York. It began with a local 5k run which raised a few thousand dollars, Tony said, which was donated to the local burn center. The next year attendance doubled. Since 2002, he said, there are 70+ events around the world! The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation was founded to help people all over the world.
The foundation provides free homes to catastrophically injured veterans and pay off the mortgages of families of law enforcement officials who have lost their lives in the line of duty. Tony mentioned the Dall 5 – police officers who were killed in the line of duty. Frank Siller, Stephen’s father, went the very next day to Dallas to inform the families of these officers that their mortgages were being fully paid off by the foundation.
The Gold Star Family Program was another program the foundation founded, Tony said. This program was designed to help families of fallen young soldiers killed overseas who have a spouse and small children. In these cases, the family is set up in a modest, mortgage-free home to live in. To date, there are 68 Smart Homes for those having suffered catastrophic injuries with another 21 in progress, he said. The foundation has paid the mortgages of 56 First Responders across the country and have purchased 40 homes and have given them to Gold Star families. The foundation has also set aside $5M for a COVID-19 Relief Fund.
Tony encouraged anyone who would like to give to the foundation through tunnel2towers.org. Prior to the pandemic, Tony was one of the directors who were planning the Stephen Siller 5k Run & Walk in Jackson scheduled for May 16which was postponed. Thanks, Tony for a great presentation!