By Whitney Vickers
YELLOW SPRINGS — Three hundred forty three firefighters and a number of police officers did not make it up the 110 floors that made up the World Trade Centers during the 9/11 attacks. The community is invited to carry them up the equivalent of such during the 3rd annual 9/11 Stair Climb, hosted by the Miami Township Fire Department.
The event, slated to begin at 10:15 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 10 at Antioch Hall on the campus of Antioch College, also serves as a fundraiser for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
“The foundation uses the money for two purposes: split it between the New York City Fire Department, [its] counseling services unit, which provides support for both the families of firefighters who were killed on 9/11 and their coworkers who are still alive and dealing with the psychological trauma and ongoing medical problems,” Miami Township Fire Department Chief Colin Altman said. “The other half of the money supports their national programs for fallen firefighters’ families. It supports camps for kids, scholarships for kids.”
He added that funds also support all travel costs for families of fallen firefighters to attend a national memorial service honoring fallen firefighters that takes place annually at the National Memorial in Maryland.
Participants are given an index card-size badge with the name and photo of a fallen 9/11 firefighter and police officer that they would carry with them up the stairs of Antioch Hall until they complete the equivalent of 110 floors to represent the size of the World Trade Centers. Participants may carry multiple name badges to ensure that each fallen firefighter and police officer gets carried. Upon completion, the participant would read off the names of the firefighters they carried and ring a bell.
“It’s a very powerful moment,” Altman said. “It’s a great tribute event.”
The Yellow Springs event raised $17,500 last year, and Altman said it has already surpassed that amount this year. In-person registration, costing $35, opens at 9:15 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 10 at the site of the event. It includes a water, lunch and T-shirt, thanks to the help of corporate sponsors. This event is just one of about 30 stair climbs taking place around the nation for the same cause. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation received more than $700,000 last year with the help of events of this kind. It is not a race and it invites participants of all professions and ages — Altman said an 83-year-old individual completed it last year, while he has also observed children climbing the stairs in the past.
Actually, helping younger individuals realize what 9/11 meant to the United States served as an inspiration for Altman to bring this event home after he participated in a stair climb four years ago at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
“It was an eye-opening and moving event,” he said.
“I used to scoff in some ways when I was a little kid when my parents would talk about remembering where they were when JFK was shot or during the first moon landing. Now that I’m an adult, I see the importance of that. There’s important things to my generation — 9/11, I’ll always remember what I was doing,” Altman added. ” … One of the things that kicked us into doing one of our own was having some younger guys at the fire department who were 2-3 years old on 9/11 and really had no idea about the sacrifice of the firefighters, police officers and civilians.”
Doug Cope, who retired from the Xenia Fire Department; and Sharon Purdy, a retired paramedic and widow to a fallen firefighter, will offer remarks during the opening ceremony. The event does not leave room for political statements, as it is meant to be a tribute to honor the fallen.
“We talk in the fire department about ‘the brotherhood’,” Altman said. “To me, this brings it home. We’re honoring people we don’t know. To me, that’s what our service is about, a brotherhood and sisterhood and supporting each other … Most people nowadays recognize the service and sacrifice that police and fire make. I think we see that at this event. We have people of all walks of life who come do the climb.”