Philanthropies founded in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks continue to remember the fallen heroes by maintaining their legacy and supporting their families 21 years after the tragedy.
Organizations like Answer the Call, for example, have provided millions of dollars for families who lost loved ones in the attacks.
Formally known as the N.Y. Police and Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund, Answer the Call has donated $100,000 to each family of the roughly 400 first responders who lost their lives in the attacks, and has contributed over $165 million in total.
The organization was founded by former New York Mets baseball star Daniel “Rusty” Staub to support the families of first responders from the NYPD, FDNY and PAPD (Port Authority Police Department) and EMS workers who died in the line of duty.
After 9/11, the number of families who needed help doubled.
“On September 11, 2001, the number of families we served tragically doubled. We lost over 300 NYC first responders that devastating day … However, because of the incredible generosity of our supporters, the outpouring of support we received from people and companies across the country and the fiscal responsibility of our leadership, we were able to continue to provide assistance to these families, as well as all the other families who had lost a loved one in the line of duty,” the foundation stated on its website.
Another organization, the Tunnels to Towers Foundation, has raised a total of $250 million for the fallen heroes since the attacks, which claimed 2,977 lives in total.
Of these, 343 FDNY firefighters, 23 NYPD officers and 37 Port Authority police officers lost their lives.
Answer the Call and Tunnels to Towers have gone beyond providing just financial support to families by actively checking on their wellfare.
For instance, Answer the Call helped Marcela Leahy’s three sons grapple with the tragedy after their father, NYPD Officer James Leahy, was killed in the attacks.
The baseball games hosted by the organization have given a lot of emotional support to the boys, who often played baseball with their father.
“The boys loved baseball,” Leahy told Fox News Digital. “James was actively involved with the sports, involved with baseball, took them to baseball games … I knew we were going to have a baseball game where the kids didn’t feel different because everyone there, that they were going to be with, was in the same position – they lost a father.”
Now, the boys are grown up and married.
“Even when the kids got married, it’s just, it’s so bittersweet. It’s happy, but it’s the saddest,” she said. “He’s not here, but he’s here because they’re so much like him.”
Leahy added that Answer the Call is always there for her and her family.
“I knew I could always call for anything,” she said. “I would call … for stupid things, just to ask a question, and they always had an answer. So, I know that somebody always had my back.”
“It’s a beautiful feeling. They were really Godsends, God sent angels to us,” she said.
NHL hall-of-famer and New York Rangers’ legend Mark Messier decided to join an Answer the Call to throw his support behind the foundation and help those impacted. He is currently on the foundation’s board of directors.
“First responders are always going to be in danger, unfortunately, with the inherent risks that the jobs come with — putting their lives in front of others to help and support and save people,” he said.
Messier helped the city overcome the tragedy in his own way. In the Rangers’ home opener on October 7, 2001, Messier wore the helmet of fallen FDNY Chief of Special Operations Command Ray Downey.
“It was in support of every New Yorker who reached out and tried to help. It symbolized every FDNY and NYPD who risked their lives trying to save people,” he said.
“We can never forget what happened. We can never forget the lives that were lost, senseless likes that were lost,” Messier added.