NEW YORK (WABC) --A foundation has raised enough money to pay off the mortgages and make repairs on the homes of two slain NYPD officers, foundation executives announced Wednesday.
The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, created to honor a firefighter killed on 9/11, said $860,000 has been donated, and another $150,000 has been pledged for the families of Detectives Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, killed late last month as they sat in their patrol car on a Brooklyn street.
The widows of the men, along with other family members, attended Wednesday's announcement, along with an audience made up primarily of police officers including members of the men's precinct. Other speakers included police and fire department officials, along with former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
The foundation announced that in just 10 days, they received 10,000 different donations, after news of the brutal murders of Ramos and Liu touched the nation.
Detective Liu's widow, Pei Xia Chen, bravely shared her own message with the crowd.
"We would like to extend our greatest gratitude and appreciation to everyone who gave their generous contribution," said Chen. In a tear-choked voice, she added, "To all my extended blue family, be safe out there and appreciate life each day."
And the sister of Detective Ramos, Cindy, reminded all those who've donated that while nothing can bring their officers back: "Just to know that my sister-in-law and the boys could sleep just a little bit better amidst this tragedy fills a little bit of that gap."
The largest donation to the Liu and Ramos families was $50,000, from just one donor who wishes to remain anonymous. But there is another donation that was pretty special.
It was from 9-year old Gretchen Lysne and her 7 year old sister Victoria of West Salem, Wisconsin. They donated all their Christmas money after hearing their parents discussing what the officers' widows were going through.
"I would hope they'd just not be sad anymore about their husbands," said Victoria.
"I hope they'll have enough money and I hope they'll have a good life," said Gretchen.
"And we told the girls thank you, and we told them that what they are doing would be very much appreciated," the girls mother Rachel said.
Rest assured, it is.
"Words cannot express our appreciation that is in my heart. Thank you very much," said Officer Liu's widow.
More than a million dollars in total donations were collected, from all 50 states.
The foundation says the money will be used to pay off mortgages and make repairs to the homes, with any extra going to the two families. They reached out to the banks to get the payoff amounts.
The foundation is named for foundation CEO Frank Siller's youngest brother Stephen, killed at the World Trade Center.
Citing the outpouring of support from the nation-50% of the donations came from states outside the greater New York-area, and residents of every state participated-Frank Siller said that "whatever work needs to be done, we will be the ones leading the charge."
NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker thanked the foundation for all it had done to ensure that the Liu and Ramos families had one less thing to worry about in the midst of their grief.
"It is a real honor to be here. I want to express our profound gratitude to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation for what you have done. It's one of the things that makes being a member of the NYPD incredible," Tucker said.
Addressing the approximately 250 members of the NYPD in the audience, Giuliani, who is chairman of the annual Tunnel to Towers Run, said, "The NYPD is the finest law enforcement agency in the U.S. You are the best law enforcement agency in the country. There's no one better and fairer and more restrained. There is nothing that will bring Detectives Liu and Ramos back...(but) today the Siller family and all the wonderful people who donated the money lifted that pain."
(Some information from the Associated Press.)