Members of a nonprofit founded in memory of a firefighter killed on 9/11 hope to raise $800,000 by the end of the year to pay off the mortgages of slain New York City police officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation said it has already raised $70,000, including a $20,000 pledge from former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, chairman of the foundation's annual 5k run.
"I think it's important that we show the Liu and the Ramos family that we are all coming together as a community, as New Yorkers and as Americans," chairman and CEO Frank Siller, whose brother Stephen died responding to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, told reporters Friday at the foundation's Staten Island headquarters.
Ramos, 40, and Liu, 32, were killed in an ambush attack while sitting in their squad car in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn last Saturday.
The foundation learned of the Liu family's financial difficulties through press reports and statements by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Frank Siller said.
Liu's wife, Pei Xia Chen, held her head down and sobbed during the news conference. Her family didn't speak but they released a statement thanking the nonprofit, Giuliani, Cuomo and "everyone who has shown their support at this difficult time."
In a statement, Cuomo commended the foundation and its /work to "honor their memory by doing all we can . . . to take care of their families now and in years to come."
The foundation builds houses for catastrophically injured service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Giuliani, who attended, urged others to donate.
"It doesn't bring back either one of these great men, but it does help," said Giuliani, who said he visited the families of both officers on Tuesday. He said the officers "died for us . . . so that last night, at Christmas, we could go to bed with our children safe."
The PBA and city have benefits for families of slain officers, Giuliani said, but he doesn't believe the Liu family knows about them yet because of a language barrier and "there is also an emotional thing they're going through."
Giuliani said Liu, a seven-year veteran, was an only child and family breadwinner.
Ramos was married and had two sons, Giuliani said, and the officer worked overtime to pay his eldest son's tuition at Bowdoin College.
Ramos lived in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn. Liu lived in Brooklyn's Gravesend neighborhood.
"We don't get officers like Officer Liu and Officer Ramos from thin air . . . they're brought up right," Giuliani said. "We owe these families."
To donate, visit Tunnel2Towers.org. Checks can also be mailed to The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, 2361 Hylan Blvd., Staten Island, NY 10306