Several times a year, my travels take me to events throughout the country where the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation is hosting one of their 9/11 Memorial Stair Climbs. Each show or event that I attend, I always try to make time to be sure that I can climb 110 floors in memory of our fallen brothers. This typically involves an hour or so workout in the stairwell, receiving the name of one of the fallen heroes, and donating around 25-35$ to the NFFF. As the schedules at some of the shows have gotten busier over the years, I still have managed to climb.
Climbing the 110 floors for our fallen FDNY brothers is not something that I do for my own accomplishment. When I look back on my first climb in Richmond, VA a few years ago, I wanted to participate in an event that paid tribute to our fallen, but I was also in a place where I wanted to do it as a personal accomplishment. Since that climb, I have accomplished what I wanted to for myself, but still use these events to pay tribute. Each time, whether I climb in gear, airpack, or gym clothes… I Climb to Remember.
A few co-workers typically travel with my during the September climb, and over the year’s…we had discussed holding one in the Tri-Cities. The limitation that we knew we would have is a big enough building to host one. Nonetheless, last year, around 13 of us hit the stairwell of the Holston Valley Parking Garage to climb the 110 floors (12 trips in the stairwell). We had the radio traffic from 09/11/01 playing on a speaker in the stairwell, and we were able to help show a handful of our co-workers what these events are about. As prior to this, the closest stair climb was between 2-3 hours away.
In mid-July of this year, a few guys on my shift (Jason Bledsoe, Jared Lindholm, Michael Briscoe, and Ethan Thompson) and myself sat down and discussed opening the event up to area departments this year. We discussed that we could do a $20 entry fee that would include a t-shirt, and hopefully we would have a few participate. Throughout the next couple of months, we met on occasion and planned out the different elements we wanted to use that we had seen at the various climbs we had participated in. We met with the Holston Valley Medical Center staff, and kept them informed as the date grew closer.
As the date grew closer, the registrations continued to pour in…. I am one that gets nervous over certain events, and I’d be lying if I said I was worried. After speaking with a few close friends, they ensured me that we could pull this off….
Our Committee and volunteers, as well as a few personnel that would be on-shift the day of the climb hit the stairwell the night before…and I was very restless the night before the climb. The weather did not cooperate as we had wished…but just as I had been assured….the climbers showed up. They actually started arriving around 7am the morning of the climb as we were still setting up. They continued to file in up until the time of the opening ceremony.
With a total of 20+ sponsors, 150 climbers, and a lot of planning…. we made a difference. For once, it wasn’t a $20 difference…it wasn’t a $30 difference…once all expenses are paid, we will have collectively raised around $3,500 for the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation! This is the difference that we have made, and this is just the beginning.
Since the climb, we have received nothing but positive comments regarding the experience. I truly believe that if it was not for us hosting this event, many of the participants never would have been able to experience what they did in the stairwell that day. We gave them an opportunity to remember…and they did just that.
This weekend, after a tiring few days organizing and working the Tri-Cities 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, a few of us hit the road once again to attend the Charlotte 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb. As this is an event that is always so well organized and that I look forward to attending, I knew that this may be my last year. As our event went so well, we most likely will move our event to the weekend next year and will focus efforts on raising money here in the Tri-Cities VS travelling out of state.
This year, Jared Lindholm and I were teamed up with Bill Koch, his daughter, and a brother from Fairview. As this was their first climb, we took to the stairwell as a team…and that is exactly how we finished each trip to the top. The Duke Energy Building is 50 stories tall, with a sky deck on the 10th floor. We climbed the building twice, plus one last trip to the 10th. It was once again an emotional experience for us all…as it always is.
I was also fortunate enough to bump in to one of my biggest fans, Cpt. vonAppen from Fully Involved! It is always good to see him during my travels, and no matter how often I see him, he seems to always ask for an autograph! All jokes aside, it was nice to see him on the East Coast. He was an instructor for the Training Day before the climb, and I was disappointed I wasn’t able to make it down for that! I was also able to catch up with C.J. Dwiggins from Winston Salem Fire, and Pete Sulzer of Asheboro.