Copperas Cove Fire Department firefighters and their family members participated in a somber event Sunday morning in downtown Austin to commemorate the lives of the 343 firefighters lost on 9/11.
In teams of six, the firefighters climbed 110 floors to honor the sacrifice made by the New York Fire Department on Sept. 11, 2001.
Each participant wore a badge bearing a photo, name and company number of one of the firefighters who perished in the terrorist attack.
“It was humbling, to climb the stairs and go through what those guys went through that day,” firefighter Charles Johnson said. It took his team a little more than an hour to complete the climb.
“I wanted to pay my respects to the brothers and sisters we lost that day,” he said. “To have 25-30 different departments putting all differences aside and coming together for one cause, as a fire family, it’s a cool thing for us.”
Bagpipers played “Amazing Grace” as the teams prepared to start.
“It was a very intense, powerful moment,” Jared Satterfield said. For him, it was important to show that the firefighters lost on 9/11 are never forgotten.
Shortly after 8 a.m., the teams began to climb. Climbing was halted and a moment of silence was observed four times, at 8:46, 9:02, 9:59, and 10:28 a.m., to symbolize the planes hitting each tower and the moments each tower fell.
Once each firefighter completed the climb, he or she read aloud the name of the firefighter their badge represented and rang a bell for each life lost.
Firefighter Scott Howard trained for the event, adding additional significance to his participation. “It was a special occasion to commemorate the sacrifice that was made,” Howard said.
Spearheaded by firefighter Brandi Wolfe, who completed the climb for the second time, the Copperas Cove Fire Department had 12 people representing their company. For Johnson, Satterfield and Howard, it was their first time completing the climb but it likely won´t be their last.
“It was a wonderful feeling to be surrounded by so many positive people,” Satterfield said. He described firefighting as a brotherhood and welcomed the opportunity to pay his respects to those lost.
A nonprofit organization, the Texas Firewalkers, hold fundraisers to assist families who have lost their homes to fires. This event was designed to “give you a gut check,” and be both “emotionally and physically demanding,” according to the Firewalkers website.
More than 25 stair climb events were held across the nation this weekend, Howard said.