By Mark Reynolds
On September 10 a fundraiser was held at Locust Grove Farm in Milton as a benefit for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.
Bob Keator organized the BBQ event in Milton. In 2001 he was Chief of the Wallkill Fire Department when 911 happened.
“Days later as Chief I organized guys and we went down to the pit on that Saturday after it happened. Over the years there were guys that I knew who had worked on the pit and died afterwards from the illnesses they were getting,” he said.
The website for the Tunnel to Towers described the heroism of firefighter Stephen G. Siller, who the Foundation honors.
“On September 11, 2001, Stephen, who was assigned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1, had just finished his shift and was on his way to play golf with his brothers when he got word over his scanner of a plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Upon hearing the news, Stephen called his wife Sally and asked her to tell his brothers he would catch up with them later. He returned to Squad 1 to get his gear.
Stephen drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but it had already been closed for security purposes. Determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 lbs. of gear to his back, and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he gave up his life while saving others.
Stephen had everything to live for; a great wife, five wonderful children, a devoted extended family, and friends. Stephen’s parents were lay Franciscans and he grew up under the guiding philosophy of St. Francis of Assisi, whose encouraging and inspirational phrase “while we have time, let us do good” were words that Stephen lived by. Stephen’s life and heroic death serve as a reminder to us all to live life to the fullest and to spend our time here on earth doing good – this is his legacy.”
Keator said the Foundation takes care of Wounded Warriors, First Responders and helps pay mortgages off and other expenses for the surviving family. He said he wanted to help the Foundation because he witnessed the devastation first hand in downtown New York City in 2001.
“I’ve seen what the foundation does and I thought this was the proper one,” he said, pointing out that they only use 1% of the money collected for administrative costs and the rest goes directly to people affected by tragedy.
Keator said they raised about $11,000 for the Foundation at the fundraiser. He paused for a minute before saying, “I am overwhelmed by the support from everybody.”
Locust Grove owner Chip Kent said this was the first fundraiser for the Tunnel to Towers Fundraiser that has been held at his farm.
“It’s a great cause and a lot of people donate without a fundraiser like this. They make a monthly donation to them,” he said. “Thanks to everybody who turned out, it’s been phenomenal and thanks for supporting a great cause.”
Charley Alonge came to the fundraiser in support of the Foundation.
“When you lose somebody and you’re going to lose your house and you have kids the Foundation steps in to help,” Alonge said. “It’s a great thing.”