Sept. 11, 2001 – A day America will not forget.
In an effort to keep alive the memory of the lost first responders, several local firefighters and police officers participated in Saturday’s Dallas 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb at Renaissance Tower.
More than 400 active first responders from across the state climbed 110 floors in full gear to represent the physical challenges faced by firefighters and police officers on that tragic day and to honor their memory. Each participant carried a card with the name of a first responder who was killed while responding to the terrorist attacks in New York City’s World Trade Center towers.
The Dallas event is one of several around the world commemorating this day.
This is the second year Armando Fernandez, 28, has participated. He’s a full-time firefighter in Prosper and volunteers with the Decatur Fire Department.
“The first time I decided to do it was to show that we’ll never forget,” he said. “It was in memory of that day, and the struggle they went through. I wanted to show people we haven’t forgotten what they did that day.”
Fernandez made the climb wearing the same gear he straps on for a structure fire, which weighs about 60 to 70 pounds. Because there is no building in Dallas as tall as the towers that fell that day, participants climb to the top of Renaissance Tower twice to accurately represent the efforts made on Sept. 11, 2001.
Brady Murphree, 29, who volunteers with the Paradise and Decatur fire departments, said it was an honor to carry those first responders to the top one more time, but it was also difficult.
“I wanted so bad to drop my pack or open up my coat and get some air, but I had it in my head that those guys didn’t have a choice, and I didn’t either,” he said. “So I finished and made sure the gentleman I was climbing for made it to the top.”
Murphree carried a tag for Lt. Vincent Hollaran, who was the only firefighter from Ladder Co. 8 to lose his life on Sept. 11.
“It was overwhelming standing at the top and being able to look down at the view because in the stairwell you can’t see anything,” he said. “All you see is the next step in front of you. As soon as you get to the top, you place his tag on the board, signifying that he’s made it …”
Fernandez said the support from the crowd was unbelievable.
“There were bystanders at the climb cheering us on and thanking us,” he said.
Fernandez said he’s considering traveling to another 9/11 climb next year to experience a different location and get an opportunity to meet more first responders.
Other Wise County participants included Paradise volunteer firefighters Beau Leewright and Brandon Johnson and Decatur police officers Royce Gastineau and Zack Barrier.
Charities benefiting from the Dallas event include the Texas LODD Taskforce, Concerns of Police Survivors, National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Next year’s event will be held Sept. 6.
To read the Washington Times’ “Remembering 9/11,” go to wcmess.com/911. It’s a collection of stories from that day, including a timeline, photos and educational guide for teachers, which was produced with the help of the History Channel.