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My take: The night that gave us cause to remember

April 24/May 1, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 23

By Steven Feldman

 

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 3.46.11 PMOn Thursday night, April 21, two of our industry’s own, Jeff Lorberbaum and Howard Brodsky, were feted at the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers’ inaugural Footsteps to the Future Gala for their companies’ contributions in building smart homes for America’s wounded veterans. It was a lavish event where many individuals from our industry came out to pay tribute to these two leaders and visionaries.

Of course, Mohawk and Carpet One executives turned out in droves. And there was the retired Ralph Boe fitting right in like he never left. There was Carl Bouckaert, making his first appearance anywhere in almost two years since a dirt bike accident almost claimed one of his legs. It’s been a long road back, but no one has the competitive spirit of Bouckaert, a former Olympian.

For those who might not know, Stephen Siller was a firefighter who on that infamous day was on his way to play golf with his brothers after finishing his shift when he got word over his scanner of the first plane hitting the Twin Towers. Upon hearing the news, Siller drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but it had already been closed for security purposes. Determined to carry out his duty, he strapped 60 pounds of gear to his back and raced on foot through the tunnel to the Twin Towers, where he lost his life while saving others. He was one of 343 firefighters who perished that day.

The Siller family decided to keep Stephen’s memory alive by starting a foundation and an annual 5K race/walk tracing Stephen’s final steps on Sept. 11 through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel into Lower Manhattan. Last year’s event drew more than 25,000 entries. The foundation then launched Building for America’s Bravest, which builds the aforementioned smart homes. Mohawk supplies the flooring; Carpet One members facilitate the installation.

While Frank Siller was telling the story of his brother on that fateful day, I couldn’t help but reflect. It has been almost 16 years but it still seems like yesterday. If you’re from New York you probably have your own story. Where you were when the planes hit the towers. How you found out. Who you lost that day. Who you know who escaped death. And…how you have dealt with it for these last 15 and a half years. You wonder if there will ever be a time when you can watch the reading of the names and not ball like a baby when they ring that bell, signifying the two moments when the planes hit both towers.

Like Brodsky and Lorberbaum, others are making a difference. I remember meeting a woman who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 104th floor of one of the towers. Pretty much the entire company was gone. But she had picked the right day to get married. Three days before Sept. 11. She was on her honeymoon. And was spared. I’ll never forget her. A year later she started a foundation called A Little Hope, whose mission is to help provide bereavement support services and grief counseling for children, teens and young adults who have experienced the loss of a parent, sibling or a loved one. Read up on that at alittlehope.org.

My ex-wife’s cousin, who worked for the same company, was not as fortunate. You can read about her and the foundation that was started in her memory at brookejackmanfoundation.org. It also makes a big difference for children.

You know, after 9-11, I never went back to the site. Too many memories. Even as a kid. I must have been 7 when my grandparents would take me to a very nice restaurant called The Downtown. Loved it. It was owned by their next-door neighbors. Then one day they told me we couldn’t go anymore. It was closing and being demolished…to build what would become known as the Twin Towers. So I cried when those buildings went up and cried when they came crashing down.

If I were ever to go back, the reason would have to be extraordinary. When I learned of an event that would be honoring Brodsky and Lorberbaum, I knew it was time. Two men who epitomize the art of making a difference. But I couldn’t help but keep looking out that window and drifting back in time.

It may be painful to remember, but it would be a travesty to forget.

 

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‘Building for Bravest’ honors Lorberbaum, Brodsky at gala

April 24/May 1, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 23

By Steven Feldman

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 10.02.40 AMNew York—The floor covering industry came together en masse earlier this month to honor its own at the inaugural Footsteps to the Future Gala, held here at One World Trade Center. Honorees Jeff Lorberbaum, chairman and CEO of Mohawk Industries, and Howard Brodsky, co-founder, chairman and co-CEO, CCA Global Partners, along with Peter Dunn, president of CBS Television Stations, were feted for their extraordinary support of Building for America’s Bravest, a program of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Endowment.

The foundation was started to honor the memory of Stephen Siller, a firefighter who laid down his life to save others on Sept. 11, 2001. Its goal is to continue Siller’s legacy through its programs that support our nation’s first responders and catastrophically injured service members.

In 2011, the foundation officially began Building for America’s Bravest, a program that constructs smart homes for our most catastrophically injured service members returning home. Each home is custom designed to address the unique needs of each individual. Energy efficient, automated and easily accessible—these homes use “adaptive technology” to help our most severely injured heroes live better, more independent lives. The first home was built for Army Specialist Brendan Marrocco, the first quadruple amputee to survive any war. Through October 2016, 56 smart homes have either been completed, are under construction or are in the design stage. The foundation hopes to build at least 200 smart homes throughout the country.

Both Mohawk Industries and Carpet One have been instrumental in the success of Building for America’s Bravest. Mohawk supplies the flooring for the smart homes, and Carpet One members supply the installation services while spreading the word of the organization. As such, Lorberbaum was honored with the Let Us Do Good Award, while Brodsky was given the Follow the Footsteps Award. Dunn received the Tunnel to Towers Legacy Award.

Mohawk was an early supporter of the Tunnel to Towers group and “proudly partners today with Building for America’s Bravest,” Lorberbaum said. “I wish every decision I had to make in life was as easy as this one to support this project and group. For all of us at Mohawk, it was just the right thing to do.”

Over the past few years Lorberbaum has met with and been inspired by a number of the veterans whose lives have been touched by Building for America’s Bravest. “While I respect the bravery it takes to go to war, I’m amazed at the bravery each of these men have shown since they came home. I’m always impressed with their determination and positive spirit by which they lead their lives every day.”

Lorberbaum humbly deflected the focus back to the veterans. “For me it’s about recognizing the tremendous spirit of these veterans and expressing our appreciation for the Siller family. While I am really proud of the role we have had in this, I’m more proud of the veterans and what they have been able to accomplish since they moved into these houses. [The homes] have given them a renewed sense of independence and freedom that has influenced all aspects of their lives. They are embracing life and reminding us that we should do the same.”

Lorberbaum reminded the audience that there are about 150 more seriously injured veterans waiting for smart homes. “As we celebrate how far we’ve come in Building for America’s Bravest, let’s all commit to doing whatever it takes to help those veterans as well.”

Brodsky, meanwhile, praised Mohawk for its involvement in the foundation. “No one could be a better partner to us than Mohawk and the team. When Theresa [Fisher] and Charlie [Dilks] went to visit the Mohawk executives, it took about three seconds for them to say they would provide all the flooring for all the smart homes.”

He also praised Frank Siller for the work he is doing. “Over the course of history, there have been people who make goodness out of tragedy. Frank, with the loss of his brother, had this passion for doing good. There are very few souls like Frank’s in the world who have that spirit, that charisma, that can take you in with his heart. Frank is one in a million to drive what is being done, and I don’t think anyone could do it like Frank.”

Brodsky then cited an article in the New York Times asking whether corporations have souls. “A company should be about more than doing business. It should be about doing good. I believe CCA and Mohawk are all doing the right thing because we do have souls. We are so proud to be part of the Siller Foundation and what’s being done.”

Brodsky has been driven by these veterans who put their lives on the line for this country. “We have seen these amazing veterans who have catastrophic disabilities come to our conventions and speak to us, dine with us, dance with us. And we see their hearts. And when you see their attitude and spirit, they don’t have disabilities. They’ve come back with something much stronger than anybody could have. I’m blessed to be part of this.”

 

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Brodsky, Lorberbaum to be honored at T2T Footsteps to the Future Gala

T2T_ColorNew York—Industry leaders Howard Brodsky, co-founder, chairman and co-CEO, CCA Global Partners, and Jeff Lorberbaum, chairman and CEO, Mohawk Industries, will be honored by the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation (T2T) at its Inaugural Footsteps to the Future Gala on April 20 at the One World Observatory in New York.

At the event the non-profit organization will recognize the contributions and support of those who have helped T2T make a lasting impact in the lives of veterans, first responders, children and neighbors in need. The contributions made by individuals such as Brodsky and Lorberbaum play an integral role in enabling T2T to accomplish its objectives.

Brodsky is the recipient of T2T’s Follow the Footsteps Award. “On Sept. 11, in an effort to save others, my brother N.Y. firefighter Stephen Siller—who was off-duty when the World Trade Center was attacked—chose a path that exemplified courage, selflessness and great vision,” said Frank Siller, chairman and CEO, Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. “In the years since, Howard also has chosen a path that requires him to look far beyond himself to ensure the well-being of veterans and first responders. Acting upon those values that matter most, Howard and, through his leadership, CCA Global Partners have unfailingly demonstrated great vision and commitment in their vital work with the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.”

Lorberbaum will receive the foundation’s Let Us Do Good Award. “Since the fateful events of 9/11, our foundation has made a deliberate choice to rise up from the ashes of destruction and counteract the events of that day by doing good works,” Siller said. “Jeff and Mohawk Industries have played a key role in helping Tunnel to Towers fulfill that mission. In fact, it is through Jeff’s goodness that our program to build customized, high-tech housing for service members catastrophically injured in war has flourished.”

Also being honored is Peter Dunn, president of CBS Television stations, with the Tunnel to Towers Legacy Award.

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation’s mission is to honor the sacrifice of firefighter Stephen Siller, who laid down his life to save others on Sept. 11, 2001. Best known for its annual Tunnel to Towers 5K Walk/Run in New York City, which attracts over 25,000 international participants, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, through its various initiatives and programs, honors and supports our military and first responders who continue to make the supreme sacrifice of life and limb for our country. Its Building for America’s Bravest program builds specially adapted, custom designed “smart homes” for our nation’s most catastrophically injured service members. To date, Tunnel to Towers has given the keys to, is in the process of building or is in the advanced planning stages for 56 “smart homes” throughout the United States. For more information, visit tunnel2towers.org.

The Footsteps to the Future Gala cost $1,500 per person or $3,000 per couple. Journal ad opportunities range from $750 to $1500 and sponsorship options range from $25,000 to $250,000. Reservations and ad buys should be received no later than Wednesday, March 22.

For more information, email Colleen Grace or call (718) 987-1931.