Over the next 42 days, the founder of a Sept. 11 remembrance organization plans to make a 500-mile walk from D.C. to New York City as the nation marks 20 years since the terrorist attack.
Frank Siller started the Tunnel to Towers Foundation after he and his family were changed in ways they couldn’t have imagined by the death of his brother.
“I’ll be thinking of my brother, a New York City firefighter that gave his life up on 9/11,” Siller said about his journey.
He named the foundation after the route his brother took through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the towers. Siller’s brother was among the 759 first responders who died as a result of the attack, part of the heavy death toll.
Siller set out on his journey Sunday and will be making stops at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Over the 20 years he’s walked to remember, he’s never been alone. On Sunday, hundreds of other participants who had felt the similar pain of the loss of a loved one accompanied him, like Mecca Nelson and her daughter.
They remember Sgt. Mario Nelson, who was killed in action while in the military.
Mecca Nelson said Mario had immigrated from Haiti, worked the pile after the towers came down, and "after 9/11 occurred, he said, ‘I have to help my country.’”
In the wake of his death, the Tunnel to Towers foundation paid Nelson’s mortgage. They’ve given more than $250 million of that kind of support to survivors, wounded service members and their families.
“That’s one of the reasons why I’m doing this, just to make sure that the stories are told,” Siller said.
Among the survivors and service members are local families who are residents of places such as Loudoun County.
“Well, look around and I can tell you just all the activity and all the people that are engaged here. It just shows you how much we appreciate the work that he’s doing,” Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman said.