Article by Ellen Mirando of Leland: A Fallen Hero – 9/11/2001

The following was written by Leland resident Ellen Mirando.  I felt it was appropriate to share as we approach the ten year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  – Frank Williams

A Fallen Hero – 9/11/2001

George and Glenda Siller own a townhouse on Windchime Way in Magnolia Greens.  It is their second part-time home, their first being in Staten Island, New York.  Sometimes families carry a burden of sadness in their lives and their hearts that others just can not imagine. Getting to know George and Glenda Siller has been an honor and a privilege, and with the approaching tenth anniversary of 9/11 I thought it fitting that the Siller Family story should be told.

On a sunny, peaceful Tuesday morning on September 11, 2001, Stephen Siller, a 34 year old firefighter, married with five children, was just finishing a 24-hour shift with Squad 1 in Brooklyn. He was on his way to Staten Island to play golf with his brothers.  On his way home, his radio scanner reported a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers in the World Trade Center. Stephen turned his truck around and went back to his fire station, got his gear and then headed off to Manhattan through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. Since all traffic was stopped getting into New York City, Stephen ran one and a half miles with his 75 pounds of firefighting gear strapped to his back out of the tunnel and then down to the World Trade Center. En route he called his wife and told her that something happened at the towers and to call his brothers and tell them he would meet up with them later at the golf course. By this time the world was watching these horrific events unfold live, and as George says, “We tried to convince ourselves he couldn’t have made it on time due to all the traffic in New York, etc.., but we knew deep down inside, that he would find a way to get there. At the time we didn’t know he ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but all three brothers watched on TV together and when the first tower fell my brother Frank said ‘I think we just lost our brother’.  That statement, sad to say, turned out to be true.”

Stephen’s life had been dramatically changed as a child.  Stephen’s father died when he was 8 1/2 years old, and by the time he was 10 Stephen’s mom had passed away as well.  Stephen’s six brothers and sisters all worked together raising Stephen, while grieving together for many years over the early and shocking loss of both parents. And now, again, the Siller Family mourns the early and shocking loss of their baby brother.  Everyone who knew Stephen always refers to his zest for life and his intense love for his wife, children, and family.

After George and his brother retraced the heroic steps in Stephen’s life on that last fateful day, they decided to use Stephen’s untimely death to help others and by doing so, preserving Stephen’s memory.  For the past nine years on the last Sunday of September the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to lower Manhattan has been closed and tens of thousands of runners have retraced Stephen’s steps in the Tunnel To Towers Run/Walk. The Stephen Siller Foundation has raised millions of dollars and distributed money to charities, including over 8 million dollars funding a new wing of the New York Foundling Home and New York Burn Center. They have joined forces with actor Gary Sinise and they are helping to build three homes for soldiers who have lost all four of their limbs in war. The Stephen Siller Foundation celebrates the life and legacy of a fallen hero.

And this year, in over 60 cities in the United States (including Wilmington, North Carolina), a Tunnel to Towers Run/Walk will take place. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, USA Cares, and the Blue Star Mothers are hosting a 5k run on Sunday, September 11, 2011 at Veteran’s Park in Wilmington at 8 a.m. This run will honor the courage and dedication of first responders, our military men and women and their families.  For details of the Wilmington Event go www.tunneltotowersrun.org or www.usacares.org.  You can also contact Beverly Cimino, Phoenix Connections, a sponsor of this event at 910-200-5074 or phoenixmission@aol.com.  It is the Siller Family’s future intention to get 343 cities in the United States to eventually participate in the annual run, one city for each of the 343 fallen firefighters on 9/11.

“From day one Stephen has been the center of our lives and continues to be even in death.  Stephen was like a son to us all but also like a brother to all of our children as he was closer in age to most of our kids. He had a way of letting all of us know he cared and loved us and now we try to spread his kindness all over the world and let people know how proud we are of him. Stephen was a hero on 9/11/01 but it’s how he lived every day life that we want people to know about. Stephen’s heroic story is powerful, but the way he treated his fellow man is just as impressive and a wonderful story and example for us all to live our lives.  I will miss him dearly forever more.” – George Siller, brother of Stephen. 

Please join us in the Tunnel To Towers Run/Walk to honor the men and women who have given their lives to protect our nation and its children.   

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