Yesterday in Baltimore at Firehouse Expo, I participated in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.
Honor, Respect, Tradition, and Never Forgetting. Finishing the climb for the 343 was difficult but bearable.
I did it knowing there was water on the 1st, 16th, and 20th floor of the Hilton in Baltimore. I climbed 22 floors 5 times in full turnout gear. I did it with Willie Wines Jr., Kevin Totten, Jody McIntosh, Cory Patton, and Chris King. We did it together.
The difference between us and them was that we did it in honor of them. We did it without an airpack, without fear, without trepidation.
They are the 343. 343 members of FDNY who climbed in full turnout gear to fight the fires and rescue the people of the World Trade Centers on September 11th.
They climbed with tools. They climbed knowing that they were in their coffin…a cinder block stairwell. Every floor harder and harder on their knees. Sweating, second thoughts about their calling. Sporting events, school meetings, barbecues, and normal lives left behind because they were there doing it… Never to return to their lives.
But not to me. Not to the American Fire Service. Not to the Brotherhood.
It is my duty and my conviction as a FIREFIGHTER to never forget.
Yesterday, at the 9/11 Memorial stair climb at Firehouse Expo I climbed for Martin McWilliams of Engine 22…and on that last lap, the last 22 floors I climbed for another fallen brother. Upon the reach of the top of our second to last lap I grabbed for a cup of water. I saw the photo of Raymond York of Engine 285. His picture had fallen off of the member climbing for him. I instantly picked it up and tossed it in my helmet band.
I climbed for those guys…Martin and Raymond…and for their 341 brothers who died on September 11th.
They had it harder than me. My climb pales in comparison to their climb. I will never have a climb as difficult as theirs.
But I climbed. We climbed. 323 people climbed for the fallen. Some of them being friends or relatives of the fallen. We climbed together, in remembrance, in honor, for respect of what they did, part of the tradition, and to NEVER FORGET.
During the climb I stayed mostly silent. I focused on what they did and what I was doing for them. I tried to understand what they were going through.
When my calves burned I wondered if they ever felt that.
When I felt like I didn’t have anymore to sweat I wondered if it crossed their mind.
I never felt as though I couldn’t make it and I doubt they ever had a doubt themselves.
If you ever have a chance to participate in a 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb I suggest you do it.
If you don’t think you can complete it call me and I will walk with you.
Do it for the honor of completing the climb for the 343. Do it for the respect you have for the fallen. Do it for the tradition of truly NEVER FORGETTING.
Thanks to ALL of the individuals who made the 9/11 stair climb possible… The Baltimore Inner Harbor Hilton, Baltimore City Fire Department, NFFF, and all who volunteered.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to pay my respects.