Tunnel to Towers promised to never forget the sacrifices made on 9/11 and thereafter. It has spent more than $250 million helping our nation's military and first responder families with mortgages.
The funds have also gone toward educating future generations about the terrorist attacks, which resulted in the death of nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The foundation was named after and continues to honor late FDNY firefighter Stephen Siller. Siller, who worked for Brooklyn’s Squad 1, ran through the Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 with 60 pounds of gear strapped to his back after the north and south towers were hit by planes.
He lost his life while saving others who were at the towers.
Since then, the foundation has honored Siller's legacy by paying off mortgages for injured veterans, first responders and Gold Star and fallen first responder families with young children across the nation.
Gold Star families are families whose loved ones have died during military service.
Firefighters walk toward one of the towers at the World Trade Center before it collapsed after a plane hit the building Sept. 11, 2001, in New York City. | Getty Images
However, as part of its Smart Home Program, the foundation also builds mortgage-free smart homes for the "most catastrophically injured veterans and first responders," making sure each spot is designed to address their needs and help them "reclaim their independence."
The foundation has already delivered or is working to deliver over 450 mortgage-free homes. On Friday, the foundation announced that it fully paid off the mortgages for 21 fallen first responder families in honor of the 21st anniversary of the terror attacks.
By the end of the year, the foundation hopes to have delivered 1,000 mortgage-free homes to our nation’s heroes.
In doing so, the foundation is trying to bring joy and stability in these families' lives, CEO Frank Siller said during an interview with Fox News Friday.
It's no small task as mortgage rates remain elevated. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reported that 30-year fixed mortgage rates rose last week to 5.89%, up 0.23% from a week prior and hitting its highest level in almost 14 years. A year ago, the rate stood at 2.88%.
However, the foundation remains committed to keeping "fundraising and administrative costs at a minimum," allocating over 94% of all fundraising dollars to its programs. According to its website, its chief executive doesn't take compensation.
The foundation claims it's achieved the highest rating, notching four stars from Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest and most utilized evaluator of charities.
To keep educating younger generations about that harrowing day, the foundation recently launched the Tunnel to Towers 9/11 Institute, a multifaceted educational program that provides educators with non-fiction 9/11 resources, such as full curriculum units built around first-person accounts for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.
"It is important that we never forget," Siller said "We don't want it to happen again, so you can't forget."