I know it’s not news to any of you that today marks the thirteenth anniversary of 9/11. This particular day always sneaks up on me. I get so busy with the beginning of school and getting back into a routine that before I know it special documentaries are playing on the TV and survivor stories are being featured on the Internet. I’m glad that we still put so much significance on the anniversary instead of letting it fade away to annals of history like so many major events do. I know as the years go by that will start to happen, but for those of us who lived it, albeit from a safe distance, acknowledging our country’s tragedy is way to pay tribute to the men and women we lost.
This year I was fortunate enough to witness a tribute to the brave men and women of the New York City Fire Department that lost their lives on September 11th. Most of you know that John is a Hot Fireman on the side.
He tried out and was hired for the local fire department (it’s a part-time department) about two years ago largely because he thought it would be a really great experience. Thus far, he’s really enjoyed it. Of course, he may be feeling differently today since he was out until 1:30 on a call last night, but I digress!
A few months ago, some of the guys at his station started talking about the third annual Oklahoma City Stair Climb. This is an event in which firemen and women from all over the state (and others!) come to Oklahoma City to climb 110 flights of stairs, the number of flights in the Twin Towers, in full bunker gear. Some of the local guys participated last year, and they talked John into coming along this time. It didn’t take much for him to jump on board, and he spent a few months really training for it.
Fast forward to this last weekend. We made the three-hour trip to OKC on Friday night, checked into our hotel, and tried to get some sleep before the alarm went off. John had to be there to register by 7:00 so I dropped him off in front of the First National Center, and tried to find a parking spot downtown. It was raining like crazy which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The temperature was right around 65 degrees which was heaven in that stairwell for everyone participating.
The building they were climbing has 29 floors which worked out to about three trips up. They only open registration to 343 people who represent the number of fire personnel that were killed. Most everyone participating chooses to do so in all of their bunker gear including their air tank. It is a lot of weight, but the main problem is the suits hold in ALL THE HEAT so the lower temperatures were wonderful. Trust me-Oklahoma in September can be very, very different!
They deployed the 343 climbers in groups, and the first group started up at exactly 8:46, the time the first tower was struck. The lobby of the building was crowded with families and various spectators who would give a rousing round of applause for each group entering the stairwell. There was a definite feeling of camaraderie.
I was able to get a few pictures of John as he passed on his first and second trips up. After that last time, I moved across the room to get a good spot to take a picture of him finishing which was truly the most touching part.
Each person was given the name of a fireman that died on 9/11, and they carried that person’s picture and name tag during the climb. When they finished all three sets, each climber would ring a bell set up in the middle of the room, and then move to a board to place the name tag of their fallen fireman.
At that moment, you could see on every person’s face the gravity of what they were doing. Many knelt to pray, and all seemed to be taking a quite moment of reflection. I was surprised how emotional it made me feel.
I am so proud of John for participating, and very thankful that I was able to be a small part of it. I know every person there felt honored to pay tribute to the fallen, and every time days like this happen, their memory is kept alive. It’s a small way to make sure we never forget.