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Disaster Central
MCNY's Emergency and Disaster Management Blog

Tunnel to Towers at MCNY

March 18, 2013

By: Obiano Huntley

Disaster relief organizations distinguish themselves from contemporaries for a myriad of reason; some are exceedingly massive in the scale of their operations, some because of their meteoric rise, some because of the degree to which communities are actually aided and others because of the emotions they stimulate when relief efforts are being carried out. The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, though not as large in its operations as other organizations, is growing rapidly and positively meets all of the aforementioned prerequisites.

The presentation to Purpose 1 students by Battalion Chief FDNY (Ret.) Jack Oehm, who serves as Director of  T2T runs nationwide and Volunteer Coordinator, made this clear and provided a unique perspective on how disaster relief efforts can be handled. The foundation is named after a New York City firefighter who valiantly ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers on 9/11 in hope of saving lives. The foundation was established in remembrance Stephen Siller and has two primary objectives: to build smart homes for US military personnel who are severely injured during combat and to provide disaster relief assistance on a wide scale in formats that are expanding yearly.

In order to achieve these objectives the foundation started a fundraising run which retraces the steps of Stephen on that faithful day. The hugely successful run has raised millions, especially since it has become national in scale with other major cities simulating runs to raise funds with the goals of the organization in mind. Donations and grants also are valuable sources of funding and Chief Oehm emphasized that 99.9% of the funds raised are used for assistance of disaster survivors.

Superstorm Sandy provided an opportunity for Tunnel to Towers to expand its role and capacity. Centers were established in Garrison Beach, Long Island and Staten Island which serve as hubs to disperse resources to communities adversely impacted by the storm. The present project embarked upon witnesses the foundation training volunteers and providing equipment to aid in mold remediation projects in homes flooded because of the storm. If done by homeowners, this undertaking would be costly (ranging from $5,000 to $10,000) but the service is provided by the foundation free of cost. For hundreds of homeowner presently strapped for cash, the provision of such services goes a far way in making communities more resilient. Efforts to insulate and sheetrock homes have begun with the goal of being able to take on more aspects of rebuilding damaged home is the future.

Chief Oehm was adamant that partnerships such as those with the St. Bernard Project and the Gary Sinise Foundation are appreciated. In times of distress brought on by disasters, such collaborations are vital for the recovery of communities.

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Through engaging and asking questions, students were clearly in awe as to how the foundation managed to swiftly and successfully expand. Selflessness and an unyielding commitment to realizing what Stephen Siller would have loved to see are the driving force behind the organization’s success. Volunteers and the leadership of Chairman, Frank Siller, and the memory of Stephen combine to make this foundation a major actor on the stage where disasters are the villain.


The link below will allow for you to learn more about the great job being done by this entity:

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Posted by Ali Gheith in Disaster Central. Comments Off on Tunnel to Towers at MCNY

Ali Gheith is the Director of MPA in Emergency and Disaster Management at Metropolitan College of New York.

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