BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It has been 14 years since catastrophic terrorist attacks crippled the United States. While September 11 will always be a dark spot in history, one organization has created something positive from disaster.
The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation was started in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Saturday, the foundation was honored in Biloxi as firefighters and community members gathered together to raise funds and awareness with a 5K.
New York firefighters, like Dennis Ruckdeschel, remember what it was like first hand. He and several others came down to Biloxi to participate in the events. Thinking about the attacks still triggers his first instinct — to help.
Ruckdeschel says that's what Stephen Siller, who was off duty, was thinking that day 14 years ago.
"When that happened, all he thought about was to help people," said Ruckdeschel. "Got his gear, got in his car, was heading toward Manhattan. The Battery Park tunnel was closed, so he got out of the car, he ran to the towers with all his gear on."
Siller lost his life, but to continue his legacy, the Tunnel to Towers foundation was born. The foundation maintains several initiatives.
"People start forgetting. And it's good to keep reminding people of the sacrifice that so many people make," said Ruckdeschel.
Another way the foundation helps is by building smart homes for wounded veterans. Organizers, Bridgett and Justin Lopez, wanted to do what they could to help the foundation.
"That's why we're out here, so we can raise money and can continue doing good and helping heroes that put their lives on the line every day," Bridgett said.
Ben Tomlinson remembers when he got the call from Tunnel to Towers offering to build him a house.
"You know, you hear something like that, and at first I didn't believe it for a while," said Tomlinson.
But he quickly realized that the offer was serious. Tomlinson was shot in 2011 while stationed in Afghanistan. Now, as a quadriplegic, he knows how important this organization is to so many. That's why he traveled from Jacksonville, Alabama to be a part of the 5K in Biloxi benefiting the foundation.
"You find out that there's a lot of good people out there when they know that there are things like this that they can be a part of," added Tomlinson.