Tunnel to Towers Tees Off For Vets

By Iryna Shkurhanishkurhan@queensledger.com 

Stephen Siller, a Brooklyn firefighter, was heading to play a round of golf after his shift when he heard that a plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center over his radio. 

By the time he retrieved his gear, and made it to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, it was blocked off for security purposes. So he strapped his gear to his back and raced through the tunnel to the site of the carnage. Siller lost his life on September 11, 2001 in the line of duty. 

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation was founded to honor Siller’s story and sacrifice as a first responder. Its National Golf Series became the foundation’s flagship event to raise funds to support firefighters, police officers, and veterans who were injured on the job, as well as families impacted by a loss. 

John Rafferty, a long-time Middle Village resident, is hosting his first Golf Tournament at Lake Success Golf Club on Long Island next month through the organization. 

“It’s an amazing organization that really gives so much of the money that’s generated back to people that deserve it,” said Rafferty in a phone interview with the Queens Ledger.

In the past, Tunnels to Towers paid off the mortgages of widows who lost their husbands in the line of service. They’ve also renovated homes of first responders who were paralyzed in their line of duty and needed to make their home more accessible.

On his committee sits Laine Alvarez who lost her husband Detective Luis Alvarez to 9/11 related cancer. Luis passed away in June 2009 after leading the charge to make NYC’s September 11 Victim Compensation Fund permanent. 

After Tunnel to Towers approved his application to host the event three months ago, he got to work recruiting sponsors and selling golf foursomes for the event. So far his strategy has been to push the event on social media and reach out to his connections and encourage them to reserve a spot. By May 15, he hopes to sell out.  

The Yankees donated a ticket package and other organizations donated goods for the silent auction on the day off the event. The event’s sponsors include AvalonBay, Lefrak Organization and United Public Adjusters. 

Rafferty has lived in Middle Village for over 20 years and graduated from St. John’s University, in Queens with a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. He went on to spend 13 years as a lieutenant in the NYPD, based in Brooklyn. He was assigned to the Anti-Crime force where he worked to take guns off the street and was the commanding officer of his own detective squad. 

He says that his new role as a CEO of Watchguard 24/7, which he founded immediately after leaving the force, is “totally different” from his career in law enforcement. The company provides security guards for schools, residences and commercial locations. Many of their employees are retired members of law enforcement and the military. 

“I’m not looking to highlight my company,” said Rafferty. “There’s a joy you get when you can help a child, an elderly person, an animal, or a young person. So now, being in the private sector, you know, you kind of miss that a little bit.”

Over the last couple years, he’s attended several of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation’s golf tournaments with his wife. He says that she has been a key organizer of the event.

“I want the people who put money in to come to have a good time because, you know, you want them to come back year after year,” said Rafferty, who hopes to host the event annually. “But the biggest goal of this committee is we want to raise as much money as possible.”

The Golf Tournament will be held on Monday, May 15 at Lake Success Golf Club on Long Island. There will also be opportunities to bid in the silent auction and win in the raffle. To donate or join the event, visit https://golfnyclassic.t2t.org