By Mindy Ragan Wood, Staff Writer – Several Piedmont firefighters participated in a grueling climb Saturday in honor of the firemen who lost their lives during the 9/11 tragedy.
They joined dozens of others from around the state and region at the Cotter Ranch Tower in downtown Oklahoma City for the sixth annual 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.
Piedmont Deputy Fire Captain Brandon Jeter said the experience was tough but worth it.
“We started together and finished together and that was our goal,” he said. “It’s demanding, but it’s an honor to remember those who put their lives on the line.”
During 9/11, 343 firefighters died while trying to rescue workers as they attempted to climb the stairs of the World Trade Center. There were 110 flights of stairs, but the towers fell before they could reach the top. The 911 Memorial Stair Climb is conducted in their honor by firemen across the nation in most major cities.
“We open up registration for the first 343 that sign up and they climb 110 flights of stairs in their honor,” Yukon Fire Captain Josh Reason president of the memorial climb board, said.
“Each one that climbs is climbing for the honor of a certain victim with his name, tag, photograph, rank and company. They climb 110 flights of stairs in full gear and they place their name on an accountability board. So, we’re carrying that person all the way to the top of the twin towers.”
The gear weighs between 50 and 60 pounds and the climb takes between an hour to two and half hours, depending on the physical fitness of the climber.
The event draws other firefighters from around the region.
“In big cities, like in Dallas they’re full so they’ll register with us. We have firefighters coming from Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Now ours is so big, we sold out in 10 hours,” Reason said.
The money raised goes into the Oklahoma Firefighters Foundation. The proceeds assist firefighters and their families who are injured as the result of fires or other trauma. If it is not being use for firefighters, the foundation opens the apartment to civilians.
“The money goes to fund a fully furnished apartment. It was started in the 80s for burn victims so their loved ones could stay there while the victim was in the burn unit. We don’t have as many fires now. We have opened it up to six families in the last year and only one was a burn patient. I had a couple of cancer patients, two families that had premature babies who stayed in NICU in the Oklahoma City hospitals,” he said.
The strain was evident as crews came back from the climb, drenched in sweat and out of breath. Some cried at the end of the feat, one bowed before the memorial board where the names of firefighters were posted. Each participant rang the bell for each victim who never made it to the top of the twin towers.
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