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Mobile 9/11 museum at Heinz Field benefits injured vets

| Sunday, Sept. 8, 2013, 8:38 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Steelers fans take in The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation exhibit outside Heinz Field on Sunday, September 8, 2013. The exhibit is an educational display to teach those that are too young to remember the events of September 11, 2001 through the experience of the NYFD.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Hannah Tate, 10, and her grandmother Jane Tate, both from Mt. Pleasant, take in The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation exhibit outside Heinz Field Sunday, September 8, 2013. The exhibit is an educational display to teach those that are too young to remember the events of September 11, 2001 through the experience of the NYFD.

Ivan Ullom and his wife, Toni, have joined thousands of others on annual motorcycle rides made to the targets of the 9/11 attacks.

On Sunday, they went to the North Shore to pay respects at a mobile memorial to those killed in the attacks.

“It hit home,” Ullom, 56, of Washington said after viewing the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation's 9/11 mobile exhibit outside Heinz Field. “I thanked them for bringing it.”

About 2,000 people went through the exhibit before the Steelers-Titans game, officials said.

Ryan Benes, 10, wasn't alive when two planes slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and a third hit the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. A fourth plane went down near Shanksville in Somerset County.

“He wasn't born at the time, but my husband and I thought it was important,” said Ryan's mother, Autumn Benes, of Ambridge, who took her son to see the Pentagon memorial this summer. “We're Steelers fans, but we came here for this.”

The foundation behind the exhibit is named for Siller, an off-duty New York firefighter who dashed through a blocked Brooklyn Battery Tunnel on his way to the World Trade Center.

The centerpiece of the exhibit is a piece of World Trade Center steel welded into the form of the twin towers with crosses cut out to signify those from the New York Fire Department's Truck 3 that perished. At the base of the sculpture are the words, “Truck 3, and we are still heading up.”

After that transmission, which described the wounds firefighters were seeing as they climbed up and called for a triage in the lobby, “the building collapsed,” said John Hodge, director of operations for the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

Siller's Tunnel to Towers Foundation raises money to build “smart homes” for catastrophically injured military veterans. The residences are customized to ease their day-to-day challenges. The homes can have retractable cooktops, cabinets and shelving; automated lighting, heating, air-conditioning and window treatments controlled by an iPad; elevators; roll-in bathrooms; front-load washers and dryers; intercom systems; and automated doors.

The exhibit is headed to Fayetteville, N.C., where it will be unveiled and dedicated on Wednesday at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum, near Fort Bragg.

“The Steelers really wanted to preview this before their home opener,” Hodge said.

Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or csmith@tribweb.com.

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