DALLAS — First responders lined the streets of downtown Dallas Saturday morning to honor the lives lost in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
Seventeen firefighters from the Waxahachie, Midlothian and the Emergency Service District No. 6 Fire Departments took part in the 9-11 Memorial Stair Climb in Dallas.
The climb took place at the Renaissance Tower where 343 firefighters and 70 law enforcement officers from around the country climbed 110 stories, which represented the height of the World Trade Center.
Stair Climb Event Director John Barrett reminded the group why they were climbing and for whom they climbed before the responders entered the building to begin the trek.
“Today we remember a very horrible series of events that introduced the world to some very special people. These people that ran towards the worst to give his or her best in the hopes that they could make a difference. These heroes put others welfare in front of their own to the point of loosing their life,” Barrett said. “During a recent conversation I heard it said that those who had gone before us had given us a gift. A gift that makes us treasure the lives that we still have. Make sure that all of us unwrap that gift everyday. This is not one person’s climb. This is not our climb. This is their climb.”
Following Barrett’s remarks a moment of silence was observed, which corresponded with the time the first plane stuck the south tower. As bagpipes played climbers made their way into the building. Before entering climbers touched a piece of steel from the World Trade Center. Each climber taking part in the climb was giving a full biographical sketch of the person they were climbing for. Midlothian firefighters were climbing in memory of the New York firefighters assigned to Rescue Five. Rescue Five lost 11 of the 12 firefighters assigned to the company during the attacks.
“It is humbling to see this many guys together and see that this many people lost everything,” Midlothian firefighter Sam Villa said. “I am climbing for Douglas Miller who was on Rescue Five. He was 34 and had a wife and child.”
During the climb firefighters set off their Personal Alert Safety System or PASS device for several seconds to commemorate the time when the towers collapsed. Hearing all of those alarms go off at the same time was a very moving experience, Villa said.
Waxahachie firefighters were climbing in memory of new firefighters that were a part of Ladder 15. Before the towers collapsed the crew of Ladder 15 was able to save four lives.
Waxahachie firefighter Jay Wilemon was climbing in memory of Scott Kopytko and said seeing everyone together really puts the events of that day in perspective. Wilemon said the first 55 floors went well but the second set of 55 floors were a little bit harder and you had to dig deep to push through.
Firefighter Zac Zahimiak agreed with Wilemon that Saturday’s event was a very humbling experience and that he was honored to be a part of it. Zahimiak said while the climb was difficult at times having other firefighters there helped you finish the climb.
Firefighter Nick Holder with ESD No.6 said it was an honor for him to represent the New York firefighters that were lost on that tragic day.
Firefighters climbed the building wearing bunker gear and air pack. Law enforcement officers wore full uniforms, which included duty belts and bullet resistant vests. Other officers, who were part of SWAT teams, wore full tactical gear during the climb.
Once climbers reached the top of the building for the second time they placed the identification tag of the person they were climbing for onto a check-in board. This signified that their emergency responder had made it to the top.
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