The Tunnel to Towers Foundation announced Friday it had paid off the mortgage for the family of State Police Trooper Joseph Gallagher, who died earlier this year -- three years after being struck by a distracted driver on the Long Island Expressway in Suffolk County.
The foundation also announced it had paid off the mortgage of Jersey City Firefighter James Woods, who died suddenly on Christmas Day, 2014, following a 24-hour shift.
A 16-year veteran, Woods had been named New Jersey's "Firefighter of the Year" for his actions at Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001.
A veteran state trooper, Gallagher, 38, died March 26, from injuries sustained when he was struck by distracted driver Jesse Cohen of West Islip on the afternoon at Dec. 18, 2017.
According to police accounts, just before 2:30 p.m. Gallagher spotted a disabled motorist on an overpass connecting the Sagtikos Parkway to the LIE in Commack, pulling over his patrol unit and activating the flashing lights as he got out to help. He was placing flares in the roadway when Cohen, who authorities said was on his way home from the Walt Whitman Shops mall, where he had gotten his cellphone repaired, struck him.
Prosecutors said Cohen was distracted by three separate texting conversations at the time.
Cohen later pleaded guilty to third-degree assault with criminal negligence, a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to 30 days time served, three years of probation and 1,000 hours of community service in a Central Islip courtroom packed with state troopers.
Gallagher is survived by his widow, Laura, and their son, William, and daughter, Catherine.
Responding to the news that Tunnel to Towers had paid off her mortgage, Laura Gallagher said in a statement Friday: "The idea of our mortgage being paid off and the house being ours forever is hard to wrap my head around. I do not have words to express how relieved it makes me to know I do not have to worry about the mortgage and I can focus on my kids during these difficult times. My daughter was too little at the time of the accident to remember her father but my son has memories of running around our house with him. We may not be able to create new memories with my husband, but this house helps us treasure every memory we made. Now we know that those cherished memories, and the home my husband helped create for my children, will be ours forever. We will always be grateful and cannot thank you enough!"
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation is dedicated to honoring the sacrifice of FDNY Firefighter Stephen Siller, who was among the first responders killed during the collapse of the World Trade Center towers following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
For 20 years the foundation has supported first responders, veterans, and their families by providing families left behind with mortgage-free homes.