Climbing to Remember
As we approach one of the most sacred anniversaries in the fire service, I am reminded that there are young firefighters entering the fire service that were very young or maybe not even born. These young firefighters will not know or understand a fire service prior to 9/11. Remembrance is different for each of us: many of us will wear shirts of remembrance, participant in ceremonies or sit quietly in a bar and have a drink. No matter how you remember, the important thing is to remember. For some of you, your participation in a memorial stair climb is your way of remembrance and will be how you teach the next generation of firefighters about 9/11. For myself, when I climb I think about those brothers that fell that day. I think about the firefighter that I am carrying and his family. These memories sometimes cloud my thoughts to the point that I have to remind myself to just put one foot in front of the other. I wonder if I would make this fellow firefighter proud–if my small act of remembrance makes a difference–and then I ring the bell and call out his name. The melodic ring, the heavy echo in the air–yeah I made a difference. When your climb those steps, getting past the muscle aches and the heaviness those moments bring, and your thoughts are finally to yourself–you ponder the chaos of that day, the time that has passed since and those words resonate: NEVER FORGET!
About 4 years ago I decided that I wasnâ€™t doing enough to ensure that the fire service will NEVER FORGET. It was out of this duty, I initiated the foundation of the Springfield Area Memorial Stair Climb, which I also coordinate. The Springfield Area Memorial Stair Climb is like many others, we play a small part of remembrance every year for the 343. If you have never participated in a memorial stair climb I challenge you to get involved and participant in a climb. Memorial stair climbs are all over the country at all times of the year and itâ€™s a great way to remember the fallen. I have provided several links to provide you with information as to where climbs are being held throughout the country. If you canâ€™t find a climb, start a climb! It is not daunting, there are lots of support, and there are a ton of resources. As a coordinator I take this event very seriously and want to make sure that I am doing the 343 proud. I want their families and fellow firefighters to be proud. Thankfully, I am not the only stair climb coordinator who takes great pride in the honor that our events ascribe to mean.
I had asked several other brothers that coordinate memorial stair climbs or assisted in their coordination this simple question: Why do you climb? Why do you coordinate the climb in your area?
Oren Briese is one of the coordinators for the Denver 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb. He had a huge part in bringing memorial stair climbs to the forefront with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. When I posed this question, Oren unequivocally answered, â€œI climb to remember. I climb to help other people remember. I climb because it needs to be done. I climb because if we donâ€™t do it, who will? I climb to finish what they couldnâ€™t!â€
Oren and I have been friends since I started the climb in my area. When you are amongst these brothers who coordinate climbs and have participated in climbs, it inspires you. Last year a battalion chief reached out to me about making a hose bundle. We had made a hose bundle with all 343 names on it and carried it during the stair climb. This brother asked if his group could do the same. â€œOf course!â€ was my answer, but it also made me realize that that hose bundle motivated and inspired people to do something more–climb or in this case, he was already a climber but wanted to add a little something extra.
Battalion Chief Sid Newby had this to say about the question posed: â€œOk Adam, I climb to NEVER FORGET the lives that were lost that day. Not only the Brothers, but everyone who died. The Brothers knew how bad it was and went to work. No questions asked. It exemplifies what firefighters do every day when they go into harms way. I have family in NYC and was in the towers the year before. I don’t think any other memorial event reflects the passion the firefighters have for the sacrifice that was given that day. The first stair climb I went to didn’t hit me until I got my lanyard with the Brother I was climbing for (Joe Angelini Jr. L4) and then got into the stairwell and saw photographs of the 343 Brothers that died. Then it hit home. I am 57 and will do as many as I can as long as I can. I climb to get them to the top of 110 floorsâ€
Chief Newby currently fills the role of Operations for the Wichita 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb
Itâ€™s amazing how memorial stair climbs are not only a way to remember the fallen but also a way to bring firefighters from all over the country together in fellowship and brotherhood like no other. Another fellow memorial stair climb coordinator and climber is Jason Hildy. Jason founded and coordinates the Clayton 9/11 Stair Climb. Jason is also a good friend of mine and when I asked him why he climbs and why he coordinates the Clayton Stair climb this is what he had to say:
I climb because I feel a personal responsibility to do something to honor/remember the events of 9/11. I also do it because I want members of the new and next generation of the fire service to understand its importance in our profession. Hopefully, my participation imparts some of those beliefs and traditions into others around me. Initially, I decided to coordinate a climb because I had to organize some type of event or program that either improved department morale or our public perception as part of our department mentoring program. It was kind of a no brainer cause I climbed the stairs by myself on 9/11 the year before we had our first climb. After meeting Michael Mullan’s (ladder 12) mother and hearing his story, I knew I had found a way to give back to our profession and allow the community to participate as well. I believe I am able to do my part to honor all of our fallen brothers by fundraising to take care of their families.
In my three years of coordinating the Springfield Area Memorial Stair Climb I have truly been humbled and honored to put this event on. I encourage you to find a climb near you and get involved. Carry a fallen brother and complete the climb that they are unable to, spread the word to ensure that we may NEVER FORGET!
H&H senior staff Â correspondant