WD’s Climb to the Top

This article is brother Brian Edwards’ recent account of meeting and climbing for WD Patterson after his passing. I first met WD last year during FDIC, a year ago next week. He passed away unexpectedly in September of last year. WD was a very personable guy, and was a great asset for the fire service. He was dedicated to helping others and very active in various physical fitness events across the country. This is a tribute to brother WD Patterson.

W.D.’s Climb to the Top by Brian Edwards

WD Patterson and Brian Edwards

The fire service is a tradition based organization with the roots deep seated in what is called the Brotherhood or Sisterhood respectively. The Brotherhood is a strong bond among firefighters that most in the civilian world do not understand. It’s something that no matter what city or town you give your time to, career or volunteer, it is generic all across the world. Just about a year ago, I had the pleasure to meet a man that went by the name of W.D. Patterson. We met at a stair climb, and W.D. was a man I had no clue who he was, other than a volunteer firefighter from a small department in Western PA. This run in took place at the 2012 National Fallen Firefighters Stair Climb in Washington DC. This was a climb to remember our Brothers lost in the events of 9-11-2001. Standing with a few friends, W.D approached me and asked if I had a team to climb with. In fact, we were two people shy of the group of five. Once we started the climb, we all made small talk about different topics, most related to the fire service.  I learned that he was a major supporter of the NFFF and would be taking part in many more climbs. This was my first climb and it did push me to my limits, but W.D would never let me stop.

From that point on, I had a new Brother in the fire service. We would keep up with each

Brian, WD, and fellow climbers

other via social media and challenge each other to keep pushing hard. We would never back down from the goals that each of us would set. He was my inspiration for my first 5K mud race along with many more stair climbs and events. At the stair climb in Baltimore for the Firehouse Expo in 2012, I was helping with the distribution of name tags. These are the tags that each climber wears around their neck, and we had one each for the Brothers lost on 9/11. WD would tell everyone before giving them a tag to learn about the person who you were climbing for. He would tell them to learn about their past and what these men were part of in the FDNY. This stuck with me, wanting to learn everything I could about the men I climbed for.

This 9-11 Stair climb would be one to remember. 

Following the Firehouse Expo, it was back to work to get ready for the next. We would joke around and see how many miles we could run each week or bike, and WD always had one up on me. Our conversations would then advance to discussing stair climb racing. This is an event when you climb a set amount of stairs for time. We would go back and forth with some good days and some not so joyful days, but we kept each other going. One thing we promised each other was that one day we would go head to head in a stair climb race. This wouldn’t be to see who was fastest, but to keep each other going. We never leave anyone behind in the Brotherhood, no matter if it’s a race or on the job.

The day unfortunately never came to happen due to WD passing away unexpectedly in early September of last year. The fire service lost a great man, a man who would change my life and live on inside of me forever. The conversations we had will always be cherished, and he still pushes me on while I compete in the variety of events.

Although we lost WD, I never gave up of the promises of running a stair climb race. Recently, I packed up my gear and traveled north to Philadelphia PA for the 2013 Fight for Air Stair Climb. This was the type of climb we wanted to challenge ourselves by participating in. One thing about the Brotherhood that WD always would talk about is never forgetting the ones we lost before us and to carry on their proud qualities. This climb showed the true meaning of Brotherhood, with firefighters from all over the North East climbing in support of cancer. Some would climb in workout clothes, and some with full gear. A few brothers from Philadelphia Fire Department even raced with turnout gear and 50lb sand bags. I was climbing in full gear and an air pack. This was what WD and I had agreed to climb in. Similar to the 9-11 Memorial Stair Climbs, I would climb with their name tags, and I had WD’s tag clipped on me as well. I was able to complete the 50 flights of stairs in just 11 minutes. WD may not have actually been there climbing with me, but there is no doubt he was behind me pushing…not wanting to win, but being sure to push me to the top.

An emotional day to say the least, I was not able to climb alongside of my friend, WD, but I still felt his presence in the stairwell. I knew he was with me the whole time, he was behind me as my feet hit each of the 1088 steps. I remember him saying to me, “Think of the guys on 9-11 climbing the twin towers….Brothers heading up the stairs to fight the biggest battle ever and not having a clue what would lie ahead. Make every day a good day and challenge yourself to be better than yesterday. These men would want us to keep climbing.”

This climb was different from the rest. This was a milestone that WD had wanted to complete alongside of me, and we both completed that milestone. He will continue to push me to the top.

Rest easy my friend.

Keep climbing the climb.