By Frank Fortino
A few weeks ago, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum announced the cancellation of the annual “Tribute in Light” honoring victims of the September 11 attacks, citing pandemic concerns. As I watched the news report, the move struck me as disgraceful—something that the New York City community could not tolerate, especially now.
As you know, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo quickly stepped up and announced that this important tradition would continue. The state would provide additional support to ensure the safety of the crew responsible for assembling the light installation that symbolizes the hope and resiliency of our great city.
Even so, a foul taste remained in my mouth. I immediately reached out to CitiQuiet President Michael Lentin, a close friend and board member of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, and asked how I could get involved in honoring the memory of that emotional day.
Tunnel to Towers Foundation
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation was born out of the sacrifice of FDNY firefighter Stephen Siller on September 11, 2001. Since its inception, the organization has worked to ensure that Americans never forget those who were lost on that day.
Upon hearing of the plans to cancel the “Tribute in Light,” the foundation began working to keep the tradition alive. The decision to reverse the cancellation prompted Tunnels to Tower to expand the 2019 remembrances to each of the locations affected on September 11, 2001.
“We are increasing the tributes this year to ensure all of the 9/11 sites are remembered across this country. We want our ‘Towers of Light’ tributes in Shanksville and at the Pentagon to be just a couple of the many lights and remembrances that will honor those who were taken from us on 9/11,” said Frank Siller, Chairman and CEO of Tunnel to Towers. “This is an opportunity for every family, on every street, in every town in America to join us in remembering the fallen and keeping our promise to Never Forget. Light will always triumph over darkness, and with this tribute, we are signaling that to America.”
In addition, the foundation will hold an independent memorial ceremony near Ground Zero. After the 9/11 Museum announced its decision to replace this year’s annual live reading of the names ceremony with an audio recording, Tunnel to Towers acted to give the families of the fallen a chance to read aloud the names of their lost loved ones.
Evolving to Meet the Need
While its origins sprang from the September 11 tragedy, Tunnel to Towers has continued to evolve over the past two decades without losing sight of its original mission to “never forget.” The organization started by treating fire fighters who were burned in the attack. Then, they expanded their scope to treat civilians who were injured. The foundation then extended its services to support the families of firefighters who were killed in the line of duty.
Today, Tunnel to Towers assists the families of fallen first responders—firefighters, police officers, and EMTs—and military service members who made the ultimate sacrifice, as well as veterans who sustained catastrophic injuries while serving their nation. The organization consistently receives a four-star rating—the highest available—from Charity Navigator, the nation’s leading evaluator of charities. On average, 93 cents out of every dollar directly funds the foundation’s programs and services.
My Mission—And Yours?
As a New Yorker and as an American, I hold the Tunnel to Towers mission very close to my heart. I am committed not only to supporting their mission personally, but also to expanding their reach.
Michael Lentin and I are launching a committee within the Metropolitan Executive Alliance to partner with Tunnel to Towers. Alliance members include CEOs and decision-makers from diverse industries, all of whom play a significant role in shaping this great city and owe a tremendous debt to the men and women who protect our society.
We in the construction industry have the privilege of building and shaping this wonderful city. We have provided for our families and built our lives, secure in the freedoms upon which this nation was founded.
But privilege and freedom come at a price, one paid by the first responders and defenders who have suffered depression and mental trauma, who have lost limbs—and even their lives. Too often, we take our liberty and our livelihood for granted. We get caught up in our daily lives without stopping to think about those people whose sacrifices make our success possible.
Won’t you please join me in supporting the men and women who form our nation’s security blanket? Let’s not forget them—not for their sacrifices on 9/11 and not for the sacrifices they continue to make on our behalf.
I hope you’ll support Tunnel to Towers and the important work they do.
If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact Metropolis Group at 212.233.6344.