CU Boulder grad honors 10 Buffs killed on 9/11 each year at New York memorial
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Stephen Siller, a firefighter with Brooklyn’s Squad 1, had just finished his shift and was heading out to play a round of golf with his four brothers when the scanner lit up with unimaginable news: terrorists attacked the north tower of New York’s World Trade Center.
Siller called his wife and asked her to cancel his golf game, and returned to the firehouse to gear up. He drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel only to find it closed, so he hoisted 60 pounds of gear on his back and ran through the tunnel, determined to make a difference and save lives. He later died in the collapse of the towers.
In honor of his sacrifice, Siller’s family created the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation to honor him as well as other military personnel and first responders who have lost their lives in the line of duty. Every year since 2002, in late September, the foundation has held the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk, which symbolizes Siller’s race to save lives.
And every year since 2010, University of Colorado Boulder graduate Adam Kenny (PolSci’89) has not only run the race, but placed small American flags affixed with “Keep Calm and Go Buffs” signs at the National September 11, 2001 Memorial & Museum next to the names of the 10 Buffs who lost their lives on 9/11.
“I don’t know whether any of the 10 (Buffs) who died have family or friends in this area,” says Kenny, who earned a law degree from Seton Hall University and has practiced law in his home state of New Jersey for 25 years.
“A number of the families whose loved ones were killed that day never got bodies to bury. Some got nothing more than perhaps a tooth or a personal effect, like a key fob or a lanyard. It seemed such a sad, lonely thing to maybe have your loved one memorialized in a part of the country where they didn’t live and maybe you don’t live. At least one day a year we make sure that they are not just remembered, but also are singled out not to be forgotten.”
It seemed such a sad, lonely thing to maybe have your loved one memorialized in a part of the country where they didn’t live and maybe you don’t live. At least one day a year we make sure that they are not just remembered, but also are singled out not to be forgotten.”
The CU alumni killed on 9/11 are:
- Nina Patrice Bell (Mgmt’85),
- Chris Ciafardini (Econ’93),
- Scott Thomas Coleman (Hist’93),
- Brian Thomas Cummins (Fin’86),
- Leslie Whittington Falkenberg (Mecon’87, PhD’89),
- Christopher Faughnan (Fin’86),
- Allison Horstmann Jones (MBA’97),
- Chandler “Chad” Keller (Aero’93),
- Joshua “Rosie” Rosenblum (IntBus’95) and
- Adam Shelby White (EnvStu’96).
Kenny, who with his wife, Margaret, also places flags for a half-dozen other people at the memorial, including his sister’s friend and the cousin of a friend, started the tradition after learning about CU’s fallen in an alumni association newsletter. He says he does it in part because it makes him feel good, but also hopes that his annual gesture is noticed by others.
“It becomes an educational thing for people who visit the site, because they see the flags and go over and read the names,” he says. “But mostly, it’s just a nice thing we decided to do. It makes us feel good to do it.”
Kenny also believes it’s important to remember our history, pointing to a quote from Cicero spoken by former CU President George Norlin that greets students entering Norlin Library on the Boulder campus: “Who knows only his own generation remains forever a child.”
“The older I get, the more I believe that those of us who are here have an affirmative obligation to make sure those who are no longer here are not forgotten,” he says.
CU Boulder wasn’t at the very top of the list for Kenny’s undergraduate education. But after he was wait-listed by his first choice, Boston College, his sister, Jill Kenny Christen (Econ’87), invited him to visit her in Boulder.
“If you come here,” Kenny recalls her saying, “you will never want to go anywhere else.”
He flew to Colorado on a Thursday, and after walking around campus the following morning with his sister’s future husband, Joe Christen (Econ’87), he had to admit she was right.
“We walked straight over to the admissions office. I showed them my acceptance letter and said, ‘Can I give you my deposit right now?’” Kenny says with a laugh. “The lady looked at me like, ‘Nobody does this, but sure.’ And I never regretted it.”
He still makes it back to campus every couple of years while visiting his son and his family, who live just up the road in Fort Collins.
“I love the West. I love Boulder, and CU is one of my favorite places on the planet,” he says.