The Stair Climb

It was a special, special event. I got off of work early: 5am and headed up to the Qwest Building in downtown Denver to meet up with a couple of close friends to do our climb early. Those of us that organized and ran the event did the climb early. 

We started at 6:15 in full gear, completed the first lap in 40 minutes (I went with a friend of mine), and the second lap in 28 minutes (I went on my own). It’s difficult to try to explain how challenging it is to climb 110 flights of stairs in full gear and in a tight stairwell that has no air conditioning and is as humid as the upper midwest. The building is 55 stories tall (including the basement), and the reason that we do it twice is because the World Trade Center was 110 stories. There are plenty of moments of shear exhaustion during the climb, but each of those moments are met with the raw emotion of the memory of the FDNY firefighters and their task. It isn’t too difficult to rise back to your feet and continue on. 

At 8:30 the firefighters started their check-in process and right around 9am, we started the process of gathering everyone together. Chief McGrail spoke to everyone and handed out the rules; as well as explained that each person would receive a name and photo of a New York City firefighter that was killed on 9/11. I chose to climb in memory of Chief Ray Downey, a groundbreaking individual in the world of Special Operations, urban search and rescue, and rescue company operations. I had the opportunity to meet several members of his family at a memorial service in 2002 and received a personal card that I keep in my locker at work. 

My Dad came down to witness the event and we ended up putting him to work for several hours handing out the badges with the firefighters pictures. This was the first time that he was able to make it, and it certainly was special for me to have him there. Next year he says that he would like to climb.

We limited the number of firefighters that could participate to 343 – the number of FDNY brothers that were killed. When everyone is gathered in the garage right before the start of the climb, you get to see what 343 firefighters looks like. It’s a humbling site that should give anyone the chills as you think of everything that was left behind seven years ago. Following a prayer by the chaplain from the Colorado Springs Fire Department, the first group came to the check-in (which is where I was working). We sent them up the stairs at exactly 9:11am. 

We had the groups spaced out and the climbers went up the stairs starting at 9:11 and the last group ended their second trip right after 12:30. We are really proud of the event and I am already looking forward to next year’s. After the climb, the Marriott hotel provided all of the firefighters a free lunch buffet with drinks and ice cream. It really was a special treat. 

This was the 4th annual event…the first year was 5 of us, the second year was about 13 of us, the third and fourth years were 343 of us. To the best of our knowledge, it is the only event like it in the US…and we are really proud of it. 

Video about the event from The Denver Post

Story and video about the event from 9News

Here are some pictures from the day: some are mine, some are from Helen Richardson, and some are from Tim Tonge. That’s me in the ‘God Bless…’ t-shirt. 

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