Turning Tragedy into Triumph
"So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you" (2 Cor 4:12).
On 9/11/01, New York City firefighter Stephen Siller had just completed his shift when he heard on his truck's scanner that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers. Siller quickly turned his truck around and attempted to drive back to Manhattan via the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel but found the entrance blocked by abandoned vehicles. Desperate to join his elite Squad One brothers, Siller donned 75 pounds of fire gear and ran a mile-and-a-half through the tunnel, before an emergency vehicle picked him up and dropped him off at Tower Two.
Siller had been orphaned at the age of 10 and raised by his much older brothers and sisters. Siller died that day trying to save others. He left behind a wife and five children.
His story proved so inspirational that it became a legend in the newsrooms and firehouses of New York City. His six siblings - who in many ways viewed Siller as a son, as well as a brother - found themselves grappling with a dilemma: should they allow the tragic circumstances of their brother's death to paralyze and embitter them or use it as a catalyst to help others and preserve his memory?
The Siller family chose the latter.
Once they made that decision, and armed with no extraordinary wealth or political clout, the siblings combined forces to convince New York officials to close down the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel the last Sunday morning of each September and stage the "Tunnel to Towers Run" to commemorate their brother's heroic last run.
Each year since 9/11 tens of thousands of runners have retraced the steps of a hero. As part of the event 343 New York City firefighters, each representing a fallen comrade and holding an American flag, stand throughout the length of the tunnel. They are joined by firefighters from across the United States, each holding a poster-size picture of a firefighter who perished on 9/11.
The Siller family has raised more than $1 million and donated the money to charities that benefit families of those affected by the 9/11 attacks.
This is a tribute to one heartbroken family who opted to channel its energy into triumph out of tragedy.
For more from Os Hillman and T.G.I.F., visit todaygodisfirst.com