By Debbie Gregory.
Todd Love was in 6th grade when the World Trade Center towers fell on Sept. 11th. At the time he said he didn’t appreciate what was happening.
“I was just a kid, I didn’t really understand what was going on,” he said.
Nine years later, as a corporal in the Marines, Love was leading a foot patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmond province when he stepped on an improvised explosive device. He woke up in a hospital in Germany, missing both his legs and his left arm.
Now, he is escorting steel from the World Trade Center across the county to raise money for injured veterans and recognize the sacrifices made by thousands of Americans since that September day.
Love, director of Bikers for America’s Bravest, is escorting the historic relic from the September 11, 2001 to raise funds to build handicap-accessible homes for other veterans who have lost limbs in Afghanistan. The homes are built by the Stephen Stiller Tunnel to Tower Foundation’s Building for America’s Bravest program.
The program currently has a dozen or so veterans in needs of specialized homes that accommodate the access and medical care they require resulting from combat-sustained injuries, such as limb amputation. Love became involved with the program after the organization built him a home in Georgia.
The World Trade Center steel is moving up the east coast and is scheduled to arrive in New York just before the annual Tunnel to Tower 5k event, which commemorates firefighter Stephen Stiller who carried 60 lbs. of equipment from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center, where he died trying to save others.
Stiller’s sacrifice, and those of his fellow service members, are something that Love takes seriously. “I felt like I didn’t deserve to hold it,” he said of the first time he hefted the roughly 20-lb. hunk of World Trade Center steel. “It represents something. That’s why it’s cut into a heart of steel.”
Stephen Natowich is a member of the America’s Guardians, a motorcycle club chapter that is comprised of veterans from both the military and public safety realms. He helped escort the steel for part of its journey to New York. Natowich said Love is a hero, adding, “He is a heck of a fighter. He’s a true American hero.”
Love said he isn’t trying to inspire, he’s just trying to live his life the same way he did before he was injured, and he is often overwhelmed by the response of others.
“I’m really very much the same as I was,” he said.