Fallen SF firefighter's family relieved of burden; nonprofit pays off mortgage

An organization that rose from the ashes of 9/11 is still helping first responders, including right here in the Bay Area. Tunnel to Towers has had a tremendous impact on the family of Jason Cortez, the San Francisco firefighter who lost his life in October of last year.

The loss of San Francisco firefighter Jason Cortez is still washing over his wife and two young sons.

Cortez died in October 2020, when he fell in a training exercise. Now, Tunnel to Towers, a non-profit established to honor a firefighter who gave his life in New York on 9/11, is looking to relieve one burden for the Cortez family.

Anyone familiar with Bay Area real estate knows just how expensive a home can be. Tunnel to Towers has stepped forward and paid off the mortgage on the house that Cortez shared with his family. 

"This is formally presented to you, a letter that says the mortgage on the home has been completely satisfied," said Andrew McClure from Tunnel to Towers.  

He said it was his honor to offer some peace of mind for a family that has sacrificed so much. "To us it's our duty to make sure that this family has at least one burden taken away," said McClure. "So, we're taking away pretty much the biggest one you have each month; the mortgage payment on the house."

The loss for Patty Cortez is still painful, she says she is grateful to Tunnel to Towers for allowing her to focus on family, not finances. "It's a relief that we can just focus on our healing," said Patty Cortez. "And it's so nice to know that there are people out there who continue to support us. Even people we don't know."

Jason Cortez' death also devastated his fellow firefighters, who continue to stand by the Cortez family, and draw inspiration from the way Jason lived his life. "It's been really hard trying to carry on without you, but I'm going to continue to try and do it like you always did," said San Francisco firefighter Brian Sullivan. "With that big goofy smile, infectious laugh and all that love."

Tunnel to Towers says while its origins lie in 9/11, its mission has grown. The organization says in the 20 years since it was founded, it estimates by the end of this year it will have provided $250 million in funds to provide 450 homes to the families of first responders and military members. 

"Its mission is really simple, 'while we're here, let us do good,'" said McClure. "And we're doing good for others whether it's fallen first responders and their families, catastrophically injured service members, Gold Star widows, 9/11-related illness… deaths; so if something bad is out there, we're going to try to do right by it."

Tunnel to Towers says in an ideal world, they would be put out of business, with no need for their services. But, they say they know the reality is we don't live in that ideal world, so they say they have pledged to continue helping those in need. 

If you'd like to help out the Tunnel To Towers Foundation check the link here