Tunnel to Towers to pay off mortgages on homes of first responders who lost their lives to 9/11 illnesses

By Julie Jastremski | June 8, 2021

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Tunnel to Towers announced today at the One World Observatory the foundation will pay off mortgages for first responders who lost their lives to 9/11 related illnesses.

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation honors FDNY Firefighter Stephen Siller, who sacrificed his life to save others on September 11, 2001. The foundation supports the nation’s first responders, veterans, and their families by providing them and their families with mortgage-free homes.

Frank Siller, Tunnel to Towers CEO and Chairman, announced the families of FDNY Firefighter Thomas Oelkers and NYPD Sgt. Jeremiah Hunt are the first to receive the Foundation’s support.

“Terrorists were responsible for killing 2,977 people on September 11. But they are also directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of people who died since, and for those who continue to lose their lives to 9/11-related illnesses,” said Siller. “We will not forget the brave men and women who worked tirelessly on the pile to help get America back on its feet.”

Firefighter Oelkers served in the NYPD for four years before joining the FDNY in 2001. He passed away from 9/11-related cancer in May of 2021.

“When Tom and I bought our home we knew it would be our forever home. We dreamt of raising our three daughters there, growing old there, and watching our grandchildren there. While I am devastated that he is not here to enjoy that with us– I am thankful for this program that keeps this dream alive,” said Oelker’s wife, Erica.

Sgt. Hunt joined the NYPD Transit Division in 1994 and served for 17 years. He was forced to medically retire in 2011 but continued to serve his city as a Special Inspector for the MTA on the Select Service bus line. He remained working until 2018 when his illness prevented him from continuing. He passed away from 9/11-related cancer in August of 2019.

“Tunnel to Towers’ generosity has turned a very bleak outlook into one of hope for a much brighter future for our family. I only wish Jerry could have known the great kindness that would be bestowed upon his family, it would have eased such a great worry and burden and put his mind at rest,” said Hunt’s wife, Sarah.

On September 12, 2021, Tunnel to Towers will host a ceremony to read aloud the names of all of those who have died from 9/11 related illness at a public ceremony in lower Manhattan.

Two weeks after the ceremony on September 26, 2021, Tunnel to Towers will welcome thousands of runners and walkers back to Brooklyn for the in-person return of the iconic Tunnel to Towers NYC 5k Run & Walk.

The iconic event will be back for its 20th year and registration for the event is open.

To register and for more information about Tunnel to Towers’ events to mark the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks visit the website go to NYCRun.T2T.org