Retired 9/11 firefighter visits Janesville to promote foundation

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Nick Crow
July 29, 2015

JANESVILLE—Retired New York City fire Capt. Mike Jezycki responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center as the second tower came down.

Memories from that day are still hard to think about.

Jezycki visited Janesville's Carpet One store, 2413 Milton Ave., on Wednesday to give owner Guy Boomgarden a special plaque containing steel that was recovered from ground zero after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

"For any firefighters, I know it's a heartfelt thing, this piece of steel," Jezycki said. "We spent days and months down there, digging through this and cutting through the steel, so it means a lot to us."

Jezycki was representing the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation program Building for America's Bravest. Carpet One stores and their manufacturing partner, Mohawk, have donated flooring materials and installation to help build "smart homes" for wounded soldiers across the country.

The foundation was created on behalf of Stephen Siller, a New York City firefighter killed on 9/11. His family formed the nonprofit to do good things in Siller's name.

Siller, who was working the night shift in Brooklyn on Sept. 11, was on his way home to golf with his brothers when he heard about the terrorist attacks. He went back to his fire house, but the trucks had already been dispatched. He grabbed his gear and tried to drive into Manhattan, Jezycki said.

All bridges and tunnels were closed for security reasons, and traffic was stopped. Siller drove to the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, got out of his car and carried 60 pounds of gear through the tunnel into Manhattan to join his fellow firefighters.

He died when the towers collapsed, Jezycki said.

"I was actually off duty like Steve was and rushed in there," he said. "I got there just after the towers came down."

A Tunnel to Towers road race, held in Siller's memory, retraces the firefighter's path to the Twin Towers. The event had 30,000 participants last year, Jezycki said.

His foundation also has funded an orphanage, helped Hurricane Sandy victims, paid the home mortgages for two New York City police officers shot to death last year and helped build smart homes for military personnel who have lost limbs while on active duty.

Smart homes have automated cabinets, doors, lights and bathroom lifts to help wounded soldiers live independently. The foundation has helped with 46 homes, each costing $400,000.

"It helps the soldiers and Marines," Jezycki said. "My son joined the military after 9/11 because he wanted to do something, so it's a subject that's dear to my heart."

"These young kids go over and risk their lives for our country and our freedoms, and I think they are true heroes, every one of them," he said. "To help these guys that gave their lives and limbs, some of them, to help them any way we can is a great cause."

Boomgarden said it was emotional to have Jezycki at his store.

"I think this is a pretty special event for everybody," he said.

"If you think about the thousands of people that were affected and the lives that were lost, it's just an overwhelming thing," he said. "You can't put your head all the way around the whole thing. To have a human being who was part of it here, it has sparked a lot of deep sentiment and emotions for all of us here."

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