On Saturday, Sept. 3, I joined the Greensboro Fire Department and hundreds of area residents for the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.
This was my first time at this annual event, which involves climbing a total of 72 flights of stairs at a downtown parking deck, to honor the public safety personnel who perished at the World Trade Center. It represents the equivalent of the highest floor New York Fire Department firefighters reached on 9/11.
The entire climb is nine laps of the eight-floor deck. You only have to climb going up. At the top, you walk across the open deck to the spiral ramp, and walk or run down; then once on the ground you walk to the stairs on the other side to start the next lap.
Participants choose a tag to wear with the name and photo of a first responder who died on 9/11. Mine was Lt. Paul Mitchell of Battalion 1.
For some reason, I didn’t think ahead of time about the reality of actually climbing 72 flights of stairs and what that might be like. I’ve climbed four or five flights at a time in an office building on occasion and that’s about it, so I honestly didn’t know what I was capable of beyond that. But I figured I’d just do as much as I could, and that the most important thing was being there to show support.
While standing in line waiting for the start, I struck up a conversation with the firefighter in front of me. He looked to be around my age, and had his little boy with him. He mentioned that he’d been up all night.
“Getting ready for this?” I asked, imagining how much work must go into putting on a big community event like this.
“No, on calls.”
Wow. Not only are these guys doing the climb with their gear on, some of them had been up working all night. And yet here they were.
When he said that, a resolve sprung up in me. If Lt. Bullard could do this climb, in full gear, after firefighting all night, then surely I could do it, too.
The climb lasted about an hour and 20 minutes, but with all the sights and sounds to observe time passed quickly. And, resolve wasn’t needed — I didn’t have any problems completing it. Turns out all that bike riding over the past year has been good for something!
I’m grateful and so appreciative of the brave men and women who work in public safety. Every day, they stand at the ready to put their lives on the line for all of us. Thank you.
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