Jacqueline Scott-Sanford remembers all too well the mortgage payments that loomed while she and her husband, Joseph Sanford Jr., were rebuilding their gutted home destroyed by superstorm Sandy in 2012.
Two years later, the Inwood firefighter died in the line of duty after being pulled out of a burning Woodmere home.
Besides grieving his loss, she was also faced with the prospect of restoring the home without his income.
“We had to continue to keep my son in school and pay for the renovation,” said Scott-Sanford, whose 43-year-old husband was an 18-year volunteer veteran firefighter and a longtime employee for the Nassau County Public Works department where he drove trucks and snow plows.
Sanford’s sacrifice was recognized by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, a Sept. 11 charity that stepped in and paid off Scott-Sanford’s mortgage.
“When something like this happens, the bills don’t stop coming. We had just finished reframing our house that was in four and half feet of water when I lost my husband. This group made it possible for us to be OK,” she said.
She will be at the Tunnel to Towers Tower Climb on May 15 at One World Trade holding the starting gate ribbon, joined by the widows of NYPD Det. Wenjian Lui and Det. Rafael Ramos, who were killed in Brooklyn by a gunman who fired shots into their cruiser in 2014. The widows also received similar financial support.
At least 1,000 climbers are expected to run or walk to the top of the nation’s tallest building – 102 stories at One World Observatory. Last year, the group raised $500,000. The money assists families whose loved ones — whether a police officer, firefighter or military personnel — died in the line of duty, said Frank Siller, CEO of Tunnel to Towers.
“We can’t forget the families and those who sacrificed their lives. They all know about service,” said Siller, who spoke at a midtown Manhattan news conference yesterday. Siller founded the organization in honor of his brother FDNY firefighter Stephen Siller, who raced on foot through the Battery Tunnel to get to the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. He later died with 10 other members from Brooklyn’s Squad 1.
Receiving a $50,000 check from the group was Christine DeGuisto-Lemm. Her husband, Joseph G. Lemm, an NYPD officer and an Air National Guard technical sergeant, was killed by a suicide bomber who crashed into Lemm’s convoy near Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan last year.
“I am lost for words,” she said tearfully. “All of you serve our city and country. You all stand for what Joe stood for, which was service to his city and nation. He was the best family man in the entire world.”