Firefighters share 9/11 history in Raleigh

From staff reportsSeptember 18, 2013 

— Artifacts of the 9/11 terrorists attacks, including battered pieces of firefighting gear, are on display this week in the “Never Forget 9/11 Mobile Exhibit” at PNC Arena.

The pieces have been kept in fire stations and firefighters’ collections around New York City, a private reminder of that hellish day in 2001. The display will be open, free of charge, Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. in the arena’s eastern parking lot.

“For me, what makes this exhibit particularly interesting is that the curators were firefighters,” said Catherine Christman, spokeswoman for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, which organized the exhibit. “They were the arbiters to decide what they wanted us to show America.”

Christman’s connection to the cause is personal. Her cousin, Stephen Siller, ran for miles through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel on 9/11, loaded down with his firefighting gear and desperate to reach the burning World Trade Center tower that the first plane had just struck.

He was last seen on Liberty Street. A mangled Liberty Street sign is displayed among the breathing apparatuses, fire truck panels, emblems and displays that make up the 1,000-square-foot exhibit.

Raleigh is only the third public showing of the collection. Tunnel to Towers, founded by Siller’s six older siblings, cut the ribbon on its mobile project this Sept. 11 in Fayetteville at the moment the first tower fell.

The project represented two years of work, Christman said, and will continue to tour as long as possible. Two firefighter veterans of 9/11 are accompanying it at each stop.

“I have to tell you, when I saw the school kids go through, it accomplished exactly what we hoped it would – which is to say that the kids are mesmerized by the whole story,” she said.

Tunnel to Towers also is hosting a 5K race on Saturday. The event will honor Siller and other emergency responders’ sacrifices; proceeds will go to build two accessible homes in North Carolina for military service members who have lost limbs.

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