By Kiawana Rich Staten Island Advance
With 70 pounds of equipment on his back, Firefighter Stephen Siller ran through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel on September 11, 2001, on the way to sacrificing his life in the name of saving lives.
Siller left a legacy of heroism and, through his wonderful family, created one he didn’t even know was within his power to give. On Tuesday night, Borough President James Molinaro celebrated that legacy by recognizing the Siller family with the Albert V. Maniscalco Community Service Award during a ceremony in Borough Hall, St. George.
Honored were Siller’s widow, Sarah Wilson-Siller; his brothers, Frank, Russell and George, and his sisters, Janis Siller-Hannan, Mary Siller-Scullin and Regina Siller-Vogt, all 2006 Advance Women of Achievement.
“Here’s a family that took a tragedy amongst siblings — a horrible, horrible tragedy in which Stephen went to the World Trade Center to help people and never came back,” said Molinaro. “They made something good out of it, and that was not easy.”
The borough president and all the night’s speakers touted the family’s many accomplishments through the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, including the world-famous Tunnel to Towers Run; Stephen’s House of the New York Foundling, the Stapleton refuge for orphaned and neglected children; Building for America’s Bravest, which constructs “smart homes” for veterans who return home with devastating injuries; grants and scholarships for deserving children, and donations to local and national burn centers.
Speaker William Baccaglini Jr., the executive director of New York Foundling, noted that life is about choice and purpose. “Stephen Siller made a choice that day. He paid dearly for the choice he made, as did many firefighters,” Baccaglini said. But in the face of that horrible loss, the Siller family also made a choice: To fill their lives with the purpose of simply making others’ lives better.
“Staten Island is a small place full of truly great people and the Siller family represents the best Staten Island has to offer,” said keynote speaker and FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano, who resides in Huguenot.
“Stephen taught us all how to rise to a new level in life. How to really live your life and give everything, every ounce, every speck of your life,” said brother and honoree Frank Siller. “Believe me when I say, we did not know any of this was going to happen. We wanted to honor Stephen and honor his sacrifice and the sacrifice of everyone in 9/11. We wanted to make sure that we never forgot what happened, and that is our main mission: Honor his sacrifice and never forget. And thank you for allowing us to do that here on Staten Island.”
The award is named in memory of Albert V. Maniscalco, the ninth borough president. Maniscalco’s children, Dr. Albert Maniscalco and Linda Calarco, also spoke Tuesday night.