MEEKER I On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, New York City firefighter Stephen Siller, 34, had just finished a shift and was on his way to play golf with his brothers when news that a plane had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center came over the scanner. Siller returned to get his gear and return to duty. Upon finding the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel (now the Hugh L. Carrey Tunnel) closed to traffic for security, Siller strapped on 60 pounds of gear and made his way through the tunnel and to the North Tower on foot. He would lose his life that day while saving others.
The youngest of seven children, Siller lost both his parents before he reached his teens. His siblings raised him. At 34, Siller was married, a father of five, and a dedicated New York firefighter assigned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1. After his death, his family established the Tunnel to Towers Foundation in his honor. In the last 20 years the foundation has raised more than $250 million in support of first responders, veterans and their families through multiple events and programs, including an annual Tunnel to Towers 5K run that follows the same route Siller took from Brooklyn to the World Trade Center on 9/11.
Steve Waller, who moved to Meeker 3-½ years ago and works at Natural Soda, grew up in Wisconsin. He wanted to join the military, but his dad, who was the fire chief, encouraged him to join the fire department instead. He’s been a firefighter since 1997, joining the Meeker volunteer fire department last year.
“I spent most of my childhood in a firehouse,” Waller said.
This year, Waller represented Meeker’s first responders in the Tunnel to Towers 5K, joining more than 30,000 participants for the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
“It was on my bucket list,” Waller said. He trained for a few months prior, then made the trip to New York for the race, which he ran in his Meeker fire gear. According to Waller, about 50% of the participants were first responders, including U.S. Marshalls, SWAT teams, and firefighters from London. Waller said he would like to do the race again, maybe with a local team.
To donate to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation through Waller’s page, visit https://dogood.t2t.org/fundraiser/3323517.
By NIKI TURNER | email@example.com