Tunnel to Towers Foundation Pays Off Mortgage for Family of Fallen Marine

NY Daily News - April 11, 2019

by WES PARNELL and LEONARD GREENE

New York’s Bravest take care of their own. When FDNY Firefighter Christopher Slutman, 43, was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan Monday, he left behind a loving wife and three young daughters.

But just like Slutman was there for his city and his country, the family of another fallen firefighter is there to help Slutman’s loved ones.

“We are here to pay off the mortgage of Christopher’s family so that they never have to worry about that again," said Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation CEO Frank Siller.

“Let’s take care of the family of Christopher Slutman. This guy was a superhero. We as Americans have to make a promise for those who go out into the line of duty, that we will take care of their families.”

Siller runs the foundation named for his brother, Stephen, a FDNY firefighter who died on 9/11.

Stephen Siller, 34, was off duty when he strapped on 60 pounds of gear and raced 2 miles through the Battery Tunnel from Brooklyn to Manhattan to catch up with his squad.

Siller and 10 other members of Squad 1 did not survive the terror attack.

To honor his death, the Siller family created the foundation that raises money to help Gold Star families pay off mortgages and build new homes.

Their annual Tunnel to Towers 5K Run/Walk follows Stephen Siller’s brave sprint through the tunnel to Ground Zero.

Slutman and his wife Shannon participated in the run a few years ago.

"Nothing can take away the loss of Firefighter Slutman, but some things can lessen the blow like the support from Siller,” said FDNY Lt. Jack Meara, who worked with the fallen marine.

“Chris was as dedicated of a fireman as you could have. He was the fireman any firehouse would want. Along with serving his country, this was all he was about.

He just was wondering how he could always do more. He was a serious person but he also liked to have a laugh and you need that. That was what we liked about him.”

Another New Yorker perished in the blast that killed Slutman. Marine Cpl. Robert Hendriks, 25, of Locust Valley lost his life in the bombing Monday near the main American base north of Kabul, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Pa. also died in the attack, for which the Taliban has claimed responsibility.

Slutman’s family was not on hand to accept the honor at his firehouse, Ladder 27 in the Bronx, but families who know the pain they are feel can testify about the foundation’s impact.

“I didn’t realize how big of a help it was at the time,” said Carmela Raguso, whose firefighter husband, Christopher Raguso, died a year ago during a helicopter accident in Iraq.