9/11 victims remembered with ‘Tunnel to Towers’ climb

Haimy Assefa, CNN

On Sunday 1,000 people ascended the stairs of the Freedom Tower in honor of the lives lost in the September 11 attacks.

The new 1 World Trade Center. Photo CNN

The new 1 World Trade Center. Photo CNN

Firefighters, military members, friends and family of fallen first responders, and others climbed nearly 2,000 stairs as part of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers stair climb.

“It’s a very historic and iconic day,” said Frank Siller, brother of Stephen Siller, a firefighter who died in the attacks. Siller is also CEO of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

Sunday’s climb raised money to build a “smart home” for the families of severely wounded veterans as part of the foundation’s Building for America’s Bravest program, said Siller.

Bryan Dilberian, a triple amputee and Afghanistan veteran whose “smart home” is currently under construction, was met with loud cheers at the start line and was able to complete the climb on prosthetics.

Participants in the tower climb came from 26 states and four different counties, according to the foundation.

“I just felt it was something I needed to do,” said firefighter Shelton George, who is a member of Squad 1 in Park Slope, Brooklyn, the same unit Stephen Siller belonged to. George started working at Squad 1 after 9/11, he said.

The energy in the stairwell was positive and filled with encouragement from fellow participants, George said.

When climbers reached the 90th floor, they had the opportunity to take in views of New York City. “The only thing I can compare it to is the top of the Willis Tower in Chicago,” said Dave Mandel, a tower climb participant. “It’s a great view.”

The tower climb also honored Billy Burke, a fire captain who died on the 27th floor of the World Trade Center after refusing to leave behind two people, according to Siller.

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