Local firefighters participated in the annual stair climb at Fort Lewis College to honor the 343 firefighters and other first responders who died while in service on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Fort Lewis Mesa Fire Protection District, a volunteer firefighting district, began climbing the stairs at 6:48 a.m., the time the first plane hit the first building at the World Trade Center in New York City. The Durango Fire Protection District and the Upper Pine River Fire Protection District held their third annual stair climb about 9 a.m. Employees from the Durango Police Department also participated.
Before they climbed the stairs, the firefighters suited up in the same equipment they might use to enter a building they have responded to; equipment similar to what the firefighters used on Sept. 11. They climbed the stairs five times to simulate climbing the 110 stories of the World Trade Center.
After the climb, the firefighters gathered to “reflect on the emergency responders who came before us and to honor their sacrifices and their families’ sacrifices,” said Fort Lewis Mesa Fire Protection District Chief John Lee. They talked about the value of firefighters who are willing to respond to scenes of chaos and danger.
Upper Pine River firefighter Mark Fleming said the event means something different to each person who attends. He said it was important to have an event that carries on the memory of the 343 firefighters and other first responders who died as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks. Fleming called it an “empathetic honoring.”
Fleming said participants maintained 6 feet of distance to comply with current COVID-19 recommendations.
Lee said the Fort Lewis Mesa District’s walk finished by 8 a.m., because some of the volunteer firefighters from his district are FLC students and had to attend class, while others had to go to work.
This was the first year Fort Lewis Mesa Fire Protection District participated in the walk.