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Tunnel To Towers Foundation Comes To Aid Of Distraught FDNY Family

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- As loved ones mourn the deaths of the seven airmen killed in a helicopter crash in Iraq, a local foundation is lending a helping hand to one of the grieving families.

In tears and barely able to speak, Laura Raguso remembered the moment her son, Lt. Christopher Raguso, decided to fight overseas.

"I said, 'Papi, please ... why do you have to do this?' And he said, 'Mami, because if I don't who's going to do it?' And I begged him not to do it, but he just followed his heart," Laura Raguso told WLNY 10/55's Reena Roy on Sunday.

Unfortunately, he never came home. On Thursday, he was aboard New York Air National Guard helicopter that crashed in western Iraq, killing him and six others.

New York Air National Guard members killed in Iraq
Four members of the New York Air National Guard were killed when a military helicopter crashed Thursday in Western Iraq. (From left to right: Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso, Capt. Christopher "Tripp" Zanetis, Staff Sgt. Dashan Briggs, Capt. Andreas O'Keeffe. Credit: Department of Defense)

"He loved his family. He loved his wife, his kids," said Anthony Dichiara, Christopher's father-in-law. "My heart is broken as this house is. I don't think there will ever be another man like him."

Now, the local foundation Tunnels to Towers is hoping to ease the burden of his family's loss.

"Let's take care of this family immediately," said Frank Siller, Tunnel to Towers' chairman and CEO.

MORE4 Members Of New York Air National Guard Killed In Iraq Helicopter Crash

The organization, which supports military and first responders, is pledging $100,000 towards the Raguso family mortgage, and hopes to raise at least $250,000 more from public donations.

"We can't ever ever replace their loss, but we can alleviate their burden," Siller said.

"We grieve with the family, too," FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro added. "It's a very tough loss for us."

Christopher Raguso
(credit: Facebook/Christopher Raguso)

Christopher Raguso, nicknamed "Goose," died just one day after celebrating his 39th birthday. The 13-year veteran of the FDNY spent the majority of his career at Engine 249/ Ladder 113 in brooklyn. He was also a special missions flight engineer and a volunteer firefighter in Commack, Long Island, where he lived with his family.

His heroic life inspired his brother-in-law to join the FDNY.

"All I wanted to do was be like him," Anthony Dichiara Jr. said. "You know, if I could be half the man he was I would be happy."

Also killed in Thursday's crash was FDNY fire marshal Christopher "Tripp" Zanetis, 37, plus 30-year-old Dashan Briggs of Port Jefferson Station and 37-year-old captain Andreas O'Keeffe of Center Moriches. All four were stationed at the F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton," WLNY 10/55's Roy reported.

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation is hoping to raise at least $350,000 for the Raguso family in the next few weeks. The FDNY Foundation will also be collecting scholarship money for his two young daughters.

If you would like to make a donation, please click here. TV 10/55 is a proud sponsor of the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

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