This climb was different. It was much harder than our 1st in Baltimore. There, we climbed 22 stories at a time. Here, we climbed a straight 73 and then another 37.
We had the honor of being the 1st group up! We climbed with a group of fire Chiefs that included good friend Matt Tobia from Ana Arundel, Md. Rhett and I were the only two in turnout gear within our group.
We set a hard pace. 73 flights with no stops, no water or even fans in the stairway. Near the top, our group began to spread out a bit. Actually, Rhett and I had to slow our pace. My heart was in my throat, my mouth was dry, my coat soaked and my boots full of sweat. I found myself thinking more of my condition rather than why I was there.
We eased up and told the others to keep going … we’ll catch up. Our pace had already separated us from the groups behind us. Rhett and I were now alone in that Stairwell … two brothers with a common goal. It was as it should have been.
Alone, our climb was much quieter. We both knew what the other was thinking and why we were there. We were in a special place, together; reflecting on the 343 members who lost their lives in much similar stairways almost 10 years ago. I wept.
I have never witnessed anything as powerful as I did yesterday in that stairwell. Around the 70th floor, Rhett was struggling. I was trying to help and keep us moving but I knew he was hurting. He stopped, turned around and started back down. I thought we were done. ”I missed one” he said. He went down, turned around and climbed that flight again! It was humbling to witness such an unselfish act of Pride, Honor and Respect … a TRUE tribute to those 343 members who suffered and died that day. Rhett is my best friend and a Brother. He’s a husband, a father, HE’S A FIREMAN .. A “Good Jake” and I was honored to be in that stairwell with him!
We carried the pictures of the lost members that we carried in Baltimore. We have both had those pictures in out turnout coats since that climb. Here, we added some new faces / names to our climb. Rhett carried Joseph Agnello of Ladder 118 and Durrell Pearsall of Rescue 4. I added Captain Terence “Terry” Hatton of Rescue 1.
We climbed in HONOR and REMEMBERANCE of each of the 343.
If you haven’t made a 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb yet … YOU SHOULD. The 10 year anniversary of the attacks is less than a month away and climbs are being held across the Country.
Rhett and I will complete our 3rd climb on September 11, 2011 in Greenbelt, Md. I HOPE YOU’LL CLIMB WITH US!