ARLINGTON, Va. - We are a little over a month away from marking 20 years since the September 11th terrorist attacks, but the brother of a fallen firefighter is starting his journey now to honor his sibling.
Frank Siller kicked-off his six-week, six-state "Never Forget Walk" at Arlington’s Station 5. From there, he went to the Pentagon for a private wreath laying. Part of of the journey will also take him to the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Siller then plans to conclude the walk in New York City, by means of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel.
"Not just my brother by any means. I think of all 343 firefighters off duty that day and some of them were on duty. I mean they knew the possibility when they were going into those towers that they were going to die," Frank Siller told FOX 5 DC on Sunday.
However, his brother is the reason why the foundation behind his 500+ mile journey is called, "Tunnel to Towers."
We’re told Stephen Siller, was a New York Firefighter who had just finished his shift when the first plane went into the World Trade Center. Siller then ran back to grab his gear but couldn’t get his truck through the tunnel connecting Brooklyn to lower-Manhattan. The tunnel had been shut down for security purposes, so Frank Siller says his brother Stephen donned all of his gear and ran though through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel to reach the Twin Towers.
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation has been working ever since to help support not only the families of first responders lost that day, but also the families of military members who died in the war following the attacks – and those connected to Ground Zero, still battling cancer.
"I know that day changed my life because that’s when he decided to go active duty," said Mecca Nelson, who told FOX 5 her husband died in 2006 while serving in Iraq. She said Mario Nelson also responded to Ground Zero on 9/11 as an Army Reservist. She is now one of the families who received a mortgage-free home from Tunnel to Towers.
"It allowed me to save money also to do more that we wanted to do as a family, my daughter and I. When we lost Mario, she was 3-years-old. Now she’s 18 going off to college, thank God," said Nelson.
Organizers say they’ve been able to provide around 450 homes to 9/11 and Gold Start families since their start. They’ve also provided smart homes for wounded warriors. The goal is to raise enough awareness through the "Never Forget Walk" to deliver 200 mortgage-free homes to the by the end of the year.
Nelson joined Siller to march 12 miles of the "Never Forget Walk," as did a current military member and firefighter, Army Sgt. First Class Duane Prather, who was wearing a tank on his back.
"This is just small, added weight to the burden they carry and their families continued to carry to this day," Praher told FOX 5.
"I’m so proud of all the courage. I mean you could feel it all around us," said Prather’s captain – both are Shenandoah-area firefighters.
A portion of the walk with head to the D.C. Armory where DC Fire & EMS will be presented with a piece of steel from the World Trade Center.
"Our first mission is to never forget and that’s what this walk it’s all about," said Frank Siller.
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