The brother of a New York City fireman who died responding to the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center spoke out Friday morning against the city's decision to cancel the annual reading of victims' names at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
"When the 9/11 Memorial and Museum decided not to read the names out loud, 9/11 families and, myself included, we were appalled that they wouldn't do that," said Frank Siller, who runs the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation that honors 9/11 first responders and wounded military service members. "Because this should be kept sacred because the one thing that we have to do on this day every year is read those names out loud in person and live."
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there was no in-person reading planned for this year's reading of the names at the site of the memorial. Tunnel to Towers Foundation helped put on a live reading in nearby Zuccotti Park, where Vice President Mike Pence was in attendance, along with victims' families. The event was not public and precautions were taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
"We're proud to take on that responsibility," Frank Siller said.
Some New York groups also discouraged in-person participation of the 9/11 ceremonies due to the coronavirus. Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro in August announced the department "strongly recommends" the first responders not participate, but Frank Siller opted to keep the tradition, adding safety precautions.
"We need to keep letting America know what happened 19 years ago," Siller said Thursday. "And they need to see that emotion of the day, not a recording."
Frank's brother, Stephen Siller, was an off-duty fireman who learned on his scanner that a plane had hit the World Trade Center, He drove his truck toward ground zero, but because authorities had already closed the tunnel by the time he arrived, was forced to travel to downtown Manhattan by foot, making it there in time to rush into the building. His sacrifice led to the creation of the annual Tunnels to Towers race, a three-and-a-half-mile run from Brooklyn to the site of the World Trade Center.