Tony Rossi, Director of Communications
An American Leader
“While we have time, let us do good.” Frank Siller heard that quote, attributed to St. Francis
of Assisi, from his parents when he was growing up. Decades later, those words got him
through the worst tragedy of his life and motivated him to become a force for good for those
enduring their own brand of horrific loss and suffering. It’s the reason he won our 2019
Christopher Leadership Award – and it’s a mission that began with his brother Stephen’s
death 18 years ago.
On Sept. 11, 2001, firefighter Stephen Siller got the call that a plane had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Stationed in Brooklyn, he drove the truck to the Battery Tunnel to get into Manhattan, only to find it shut down for security reasons. So Stephen strapped 60 pounds of gear to his back and ran through the tunnel to join rescue efforts at the Trade Center. The husband and father of five was killed when the Towers collapsed.
Stephen’s six siblings were determined to keep his memory alive in a way that would help others. In 2002, they created the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, initially as a New York City-based charity run that retraced Stephen’s steps on 9/11. But under the leadership of Chairman/CEO Frank Siller, Stephen’s brother, the Foundation has grown into a national force for good.
They build specially adapted smart homes for catastrophically injured members of the military who have lost arms and legs, pay off mortgages for families of first responders who have been killed in the line of duty, pay off mortgages for Gold Star families whose loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country, and support a variety of community programs around the country. Since its inception, the Foundation has raised over $125 million dollars.
During an interview on “Christopher Closeup,” Frank recalled that his parents, George and Mae, were devout Catholics who were a part of the Third Order of St. Francis. He said, “My parents had seven kids. We were very poor, but we were never too poor to do something for our neighbors. One Thanksgiving – my oldest brother, Russ, told [us] that the neighbor didn’t have anything for Thanksgiving, and [my father] took our turkey dinner and gave it to our neighbor.” Frank also remembered that his father used to visit the local hospital to talk or pray with the sick. He said, “This is the foundation of our family, of seeing these acts of kindness and love that we were all brought up with that enabled my brother to make that ultimate sacrifice.”
For Frank, his commitment to the Foundation goes deep because he relates to the people they’re helping. He concludes, “I understand each point they’re at because I lived it… After 9/11, so many people were there for our family. It lifts you to know that people care and are praying for you. This is the message that we send to all these great families…We don’t want to just pay off the mortgage or build them a smart home; we want to be part of their lives. They join us on our mission and are our greatest ambassadors because they want to pay it forward to the next person…The more they do for somebody else, the better they’re going to feel. And they do. It does lift you, it does heal you, and it does give you a great purpose that’s bigger than [yourself].”
For free copies of the Christopher News Note BUILDING A LIFE OF CHARACTER, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org