A Legacy of Bravery and Hope: The Story of Tunnel to Towers

We had the pleasure of interviewing Dan Bristol, Race Coordinator of the Tunnel 2 Towers Run. 

On that fateful day of September 11, 2001, the world watched in horror as the Twin Towers were struck by two planes, realizing it was an attack on America. Among the countless stories of heroism that emerged from that tragic day, one stands out—that of a young firefighter named Stephen Siller.

Having just completed his midnight shift, Stephen would play golf with his brother when he heard the news. A devoted firefighter who had lost both his parents at a young age, Stephen was raised by his brothers, all of whom were part of a firefighter family. Instead of heading to the golf course, he decided to return and help with what he initially thought was an accident. When he reached the firehouse, the trucks had already left. Determined to assist, he loaded his gear into his car and drove to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.

When he arrived, the second plane hit, and all security gates were closed, preventing vehicular access. Without hesitation, Stephen donned his full gear and ran through the searing heat of the tunnel, a mile and a half long and another couple of miles to reach the towers. Tragically, he perished when the North Tower collapsed, leaving behind five children and a significant mortgage.

Stephen’s brothers established the Tunnel to Towers Foundation in his death to honor his legacy. Initially, it was a fundraiser to pay off his mortgage, but it grew into a nationally recognized organization that supports first responders, military families, and catastrophically injured veterans.

Dan Bristol, Volunteer Race Director, learned about Tunnel to Towers under heartbreaking circumstances. His son, a police officer in Hendersonville, was killed in the line of duty in 2019. A sergeant from his department called to inform us about an important call we were to receive. “Frank Siller, Stephen’s brother, told my daughter-in-law they would pay off my son’s mortgage. Witnessing the burden lifted off her shoulders, I felt compelled to get involved with Tunnel to Towers.” Dan says.

“With my background in community service, I was amazed to find that Tunnel to Towers allocates about 95% of every dollar directly to its causes. Frank Siller doesn’t draw a salary; he lives on his retirement pension. This transparency and dedication make it one of the most respected 501(c)(3) organizations I’ve ever encountered.” Dan Adds.

Tunnel to Towers provides mortgage-free homes to the families of first responders and military members who die in the line of duty, particularly those with young children. They also build custom homes for catastrophically injured veterans and are actively addressing veteran homelessness by creating small home villages and refurbishing old hotels.

To support Tunnel to Towers, Dan has traveled to fire departments and police stations across Tennessee, spreading awareness about the foundation. Despite the foundation’s growing recognition, many still need to be made aware of the support available. For instance, after learning about a captain in Murfreesboro who died and left behind children, Dan reached out to Tunnel to Towers. They promptly paid off the Captain’s mortgage, a testament to the foundation’s impact and reach.

Dan is organizing their fourth annual run in Hendersonville, alongside a writer’s round at Bagby Ranch on September 11, featuring songwriters who have penned hits for artists like Jason Aldean and Carrie Underwood. The run is more than just a race; it’s a patriotic event where participants can honor fallen heroes by running with flags and wearing bibs dedicated to those who have passed.

The support from Tunnel to Towers has been a blessing to many, including Dan’s family. The foundation’s dedication to honoring heroes like Stephen Siller and Dan’s family ensures their legacies live on, helping others in their time of need. With each event and every dollar raised, they continue to spread the message of hope and support, embodying the spirit of those who gave their lives to protect others.

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation is hosting a run on October 12 in Sanders Ferry Park. For more information and to sign up, please visit t2t.org or scan the QR code on our flyer. Together, we can honor the bravery of our first responders and military heroes, ensuring their sacrifices are never forgotten.

NFM Staff
Author: NFM Staff

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