Late Firefighter Billy Gormley, who died as a result of cancer believed to have been contracted while working at Ground Zero, will be honored this year during the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run and Walk on Sunday, September 24.
Ridgeite Kathy Khatari, Gormley’s sister, and members of her family have formed a team in memory of the retired first responder, 53, who died in June of lung cancer. Gormley served with the FDNY from 1988 through 2006.
A total of 343 New York City firefighters are listed as having lost their lives as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. However, the New York Daily News reports that an additional 157 have since died of 9/11-connected ailments.
“They’re still dying,” said Khatari. “I’m walking to bring awareness to the issue. Somebody should step up.” She said the goal of forming the team was to keep her brother’s memory alive and bring the family back together.
“There’s a false number of 343,” said Khatari in response to the official statistics, “That number so exceeds 343. They’re dying of such rare cancers, there’s no research on them.” Khatari is currently in the process of getting a tax ID number to be able to hold a fundraiser before the walk.
In the future, Khatari is looking to start a William J. Gormley scholarship for service members and their families, and said she sees the potential for a foundation in the future despite needing to take it slow and one day at a time.
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation was started by the Siller family, in memory of late Firefighter Stephen Siller who, learning that the World Trade Center was under attack, ran through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel with 60 pounds of equipment on his back to join fellow first responders at the Ground Zero, where he died. The annual run, which began with about 1,500 people in 2002, retraces his steps.
For the foundation, support for first responders is a critical part of its mission. In January, 2015, the foundation raised over $1 million, in order to pay off the mortgages for the families of NYPD Officers Wenjian Liu and Luis Ramos, slain while they sat in their patrol car the prior month.
Money raised from the walk for such endeavors comes in part from a $60 ticket price, $70 with a time chip through September 19, with prices going up to $80 and $90 respectively after that date.
Participants can register at the Tunnels to Towers website where those who are interested can donate to the cause or purchase pasta dinner tickets. All funds raised before midnight on September 24 will be counted.
Runners and walkers can also register at the IKEA parking lot in Brooklyn on the day of the race. Timing chips will not be available to those who register on race day for the 3.5 mile route. The run will begin at the Brooklyn portal of the Battery Tunnel and continue on the streets of Manhattan, finishing at West and Murray Streets.
Team Gormley had surpassed its $1,000 goal online with a total of $1,385 as of Wednesday, August 9.