The morning of September 11, 2001, will forever be etched in our minds as many of us watched in horror the events of the 9/11 terrorist attack on American soil. In Washington, D.C., and New York City, nearly 3,000 individuals were killed as a result of terrorists who hijacked four commercial airplanes. Victims of the 9/11 attacks included 246 on the four planes, 2,606 in the World Trade Center and surrounding area, and 125 at the Pentagon.
Nearly all of those who perished were civilians, with the exception of 343 firefighters, 72 law-enforcement officers and 55 military personnel. After the crashes, New York City firefighters/EMTs bravely mounted a seemingly impossible rescue attempt at the World Trade Center, unknowingly climbing the buildings’ stairways into danger as the two towers later collapsed.
To commemorate and pay tribute to their fallen firefighter and law-enforcement comrades, members of the Salt River Fire Department took part in the first-ever Salt River Fire Department Stair Climb on September 11 at the Talking Stick Resort.
The purpose of this activity was to collectively pay tribute to the men and women who lost their lives on 9/11. The goal was to log 110 flights of stairs by climbing up and down one of the resort’s stairwells about seven times. The number of stairs was to equal to 88 to 100 floors, the same number the police and fire staff climbed that fateful day in New York.
The afternoon began with off-duty firefighters showing up to Station 293 on Indian Bend Road, where they were briefed, signed a poster of the event and said a short prayer before donning their turnout gear and helmets and heading to Talking Stick Resort.
“This is a team event. I have done it before, and it’s tough, but it is doable,” said SRFD firefighter/paramedic Riley Murph during the briefing before the event.
Murph and the others then signed a poster to commemorate the first-annual stair-climb event. A total of 13 members of the Salt River Fire Department took part, along with two spouses: Cliff Puckett, Brian Miller, Riley Murph, Francisco Montiel, Terry Kubal, Casey Kingry, Andrew Karam, Jameson Pflugfelder, Melanie Lake, Robert Scabby, Christopher Kenitzer, Immanuel Chavez, Christopher Adams and Andie Scabby.
They started the long climb at 12:30 p.m. and finished at about 2:30 p.m. The first few times up and down the stairs, everyone seemed to handle it fine, but many took off their gear to get through the rest of the climb. Near the end, the physical challenge began to take a toll on the firefighters. Many had to stop for a rest before they pushed through their pain and tired legs. Through it all, the firefighters stayed positive and encouraged each other as they passed one another in the stairwell.
The SRFD is planning on making the stair-climb an annual event.
Firefighter/EMT Immanuel Chavez said, “There were thoughts rolling through my head, such as, ‘This is so stressful on my body’ and ‘[Firefighters/EMTs] would still have to put in more hard work as soon as they [reach] their patients up high in the buildings.’ I felt so bad for those men and women [in New York] that had to climb all those stairs, not knowing that they were getting ever closer to total mayhem. I also felt sad for the families of the firefighters, [law enforcement] officers and building personnel, not knowing that they had just seen their loved ones that morning for the last time.”
Chavez added, “Much of what we do as firefighters/EMTs is recognizing when we will be fighting a losing battle in certain situations, and in this situation it surely was. I could only think to myself that [the New York firefighters] looked up at all the damage [to the World Trade Center] and knew that this [rescue attempt] would not have a good outcome, but they thought, ‘We still have to put up a fight, not just because we have to … but because we want to,’ and that is who we are.”