The widows of two fallen Dallas officers had their mortgages paid off just in time for the holidays.
This is the first holiday the families of the five slain Dallas officers will be without them. A foundation in New York raised $610,000 to help some of them pay off their homes and ease some of that burden just in time for Christmas.
It's been five months since the tragedy on July 7 killed five officers, including Heidi Smith's husband and father to her two daughters. It left Heidi with her own income as a teacher to make ends meet. But on Monday, the family learned they are now mortgage-free.
“The girls and I would just like to thank everyone that made this possible for us to stay in our home that Michael worked so hard to provide for us,” Heidi said. “He worked many long hours away from myself and the girls, and we just want to thank everyone that was a part of it.”
The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation was formed in honor of a fallen 9/11 firefighter. The charity now helps to care for the families of fallen soldiers and first responders across the country.
Representatives from Tunnel to Towers and the widows of two slain New York City police officers met with the wives of Officer Michael Smith and Brent Thompson to hand over their mortgage paperwork.
“I do want to thank everyone that helped with this. This is amazing. Wonderful,” said Emily, Brent’s wife. “And I can't say thank you enough and express my gratitude enough.”
The pain of the families is something Stephen Siller's family knows as well. The foundation's namesake, Siller, was a firefighter who died running to the Twin Towers on 9/11.
“We lost my cousin 15 years ago, and it could've just been yesterday,” said John Hodge with the foundation. “That's why we feel so deeply for these families. Because at the end of the day, this pain is not going away anytime soon. We're trying to relieve a small portion of the pain.”
The foundation has been able to pay off almost a dozen homes for the families of fallen and injured first responders in the last two years. They also donated $100,000 each to the families of Michael Krol and Lorne Ahrens and money toward a new home for the family of Officer Patrick Zamarripa.
“You can only hope they're looking down and thinking, saying thank you,” said Frederick Frazier with Assist the Officer Foundation. “That's hard enough right there to even think about that.”
Tunnel to Towers’ money came from donors across the country and in places as far away as New Zealand and Japan. Some celebrities such as singer Naomi Judd and NY Jets player Nick Mangold also contributed. The charity has paid off the mortgages for about a dozen fallen officers’ families over the past two years.
Frazier says this is one of the largest donations the officers' families received since the attack. But the largest one comes from the Assist the Officer Foundation, which raised $10.2 million for the injured and fallen officers. That check will be presented Tuesday afternoon at city hall.