The Tunnel to Towers Foundation Pays Off the Mortgages on the Homes of 14 NY and NJ First Responders

Mortgage payoffs are part of Tunnel to Towers’ third annual Season of Hope

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation is honored to announce it has paid off the mortgages on the homes of 14 New York and New Jersey first responders.

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation paid, in full, the mortgages on the homes of:

  • 7 NYPD Officers
  • 4 FDNY Firefighters
  • 2 New Jersey Police Officers
  • 1 Federal Corrections Senior Officer Specialist

These 14 families will start 2022 without the financial burden of a mortgage thanks to the overwhelming generosity of Americans this year, the 20th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

In observance of this somber anniversary, Tunnel to Towers expanded its Fallen First Responder Program to pay off the mortgages on the homes of first responders who passed away from 9/11 related illnesses.

Nine of the families receiving mortgage payoffs today lost their loved ones to 9/11 related cancers and other illnesses.

NYPD Police Officer Dave Guevara passed away from 9/11 related cancer on April 7, 2017. He served with the NYPD for 23 years. He left behind his wife Lakisha, and their three children.

(NYPD Police Officer Dave Guevara and his wife Lakisha Guevara)

As newlyweds, purchasing our first home gave us the ability to create lasting memories for ourselves and our children. It not only offered a sense of stability but a place where we would grow together. My family and I are forever grateful to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation to allow us to focus on healing rather than the financial burden of mortgage payments,” said Lakisha Guevara.

Alex Baez was a Sergeant with the NYPD. He passed away on November 22, 2008 of 9/11 related cancer from his work on the pile. He is survived by his wife, Mayra, and their three children.

(NYPD Sergeant Alex Baez)

Being blessed by the Tunnel to Towers Foundation has made my family feel beyond thankful and completely UNFORGOTTEN. Having my mortgage paid off on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 has broadened my perspective on how something meant for pure evil can be turned into something good. 9/11 will forever have an impact on the lives of my family. For the longest time, believed that impact would always be dark. However, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation has proven to the world that there is hope in the midst of darkness,” said Mayra Baez.

Three of the homes being paid off today belong to first responders who were catastrophically injured in the line of duty and continued to serve their community.

On July 4, 2008, NYPD Detective Terrence McGhee suffered a spinal cord injury while overseas on assignment with the NYPD/Joint Terrorist Task Force. McGhee became partially paralyzed and lost the use of his legs and his fingers. Despite his injuries, he continues to work for the elite NYPD/Joint Terrorism Task Force. He was incredibly grateful for the Foundation’s support.

(The McGhee family)

Having the mortgage for our home paid off is an overwhelming emotional experience. My wife, five children, and nine grandchildren will never be without a roof over their heads,” said Detective McGhee, who added, “I am truly honored to be associated with the Tunnel to Towers organization. So many men and women have sacrificed in so many ways to bring safety and comfort to those in need; to protect the founding principles of our Nation. Tunnel to Towers is truly committed to honoring the selfless – dedicated spirit of Stephen Siller, an FDNY fireman who, during the darkest and most challenging hours on 9/11/2001, perished doing what he believed in, service.

On May 31, 2005, NYPD Detective Thomas Mitchell was involved in a car accident while responding to a robbery call in progress, paralyzing and confining him to a wheelchair.

As with every first responder, we run into danger to protect all, and like St. Francis, suffered a loss that took our lives away as we knew it in seconds. Your most gracious gift of paying off our mortgage for life, gives us the inspiration to carry on,” said Thomas Mitchell.

The final two of the families lost their spouses in the line of duty.

On August 16, 2017, Federal Corrections Senior Officer Specialist Christopher Parlo collapsed while working at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fairton, New Jersey. He served his country and his community, first with the USMC and then with the Bureau of Prisons for over 20 years. He is survived by his wife, Dena, who retired from the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and two daughters.

(The Parlo family)

It was a huge relief and weight off of my shoulders when I was told that Tunnel to Towers was paying off our home. I could breathe again. It made my heart happy knowing that I can continue to raise my girls in the only home they have ever known.” said Dena Parlo.

For Jennifer Carney, widow of FDNY Firefighter Christopher Carney, who passed away this August of job-related cancer, Tunnel to Towers support is bittersweet.

(The Carney family)

I feel truly blessed to have this gift although I wish It was under different circumstances. The Tunnel to Towers Foundation has done amazing things for families and I am proud to now be a part of that family. We miss our hero every day and wish he could be here with us. Having our mortgage paid off is an indescribable feeling. It allows me to focus on my children and their needs as well as my own. It’s a blessing that I know my husband would be very appreciative of,” said Jennifer Carney.

The full list of families receiving mortgage payoffs today are:

9/11 Related Illness 

  • NYPD Inspector Justin Lenz
  • NYPD Police Officer Dave Guevara
  • NYPD Police Officer Martin Tom
  • NYPD Supervisor Detective Sergeant Christopher Tully
  • NYPD Sergeant Alex Baez
  • FDNY Firefighter Andrew S Gargiulo
  • FDNY Firefighter Kevin Lennon
  • Paterson Police Department Detective Anthony J Lucanto

Catastrophically Injured

  • NYPD Detective First Grade Terrence McGhee
  • NYPD Detective Thomas Mitchell
  • Atlantic City Police Department  Patrol Officer Josh Lee Vadell

Fallen First Responder

  • FDNY Firefighter Christopher Carney
  • Federal Corrections Senior Officer Specialist Christopher Parlo

The 14th family asked for privacy at this time.

2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the Season of Hope is the culmination of the Foundation’s anniversary events.

So far this year, Tunnel to Towers has delivered 135 mortgage-free homes across the country.

The 65 homes included in the Season of Hope will bring the total to 200 homes for the year.

As the year draws to a close, I’m honored to ensure that these 14 families will be able to start 2022 without the financial burden of a mortgage and ensure these heroes and their families can welcome in the new year and many years to come in their forever homes,” said Frank Siller, Chairman and CEO of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation. 

For more information on Tunnel to Towers’ mission to support America’s fallen first responders, veterans, and Gold Star families, visit T2T.org and consider donating $11 per month.

About the Tunnel to Towers Foundation

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation is dedicated to honoring the sacrifice of FDNY Firefighter Stephen Siller, who laid down his life to save others on September 11, 2001. For 20 years the Foundation has supported our nation’s first responders, veterans, and their families by providing these heroes and the families they leave behind with mortgage-free homes. For more about the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and its commitment to DO GOOD, please visit T2T.org.

Follow Tunnel to Towers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @Tunnel2Towers.