I mean, really…..what can I possibly say that would explain how amazing this event is and how proud I am to have been apart of it’s transformation from what it was when we first climbed eight years ago. The 2012 rendition was another resounding success, as it once again brought together 343 firefighters from seven states and almost 50 different departments to climb in memory of the 343 FDNY firefighters that were killed on 9/11.
The climb organization has become a near science, as Dave, Sean, Scott and I have found a good way to divide up the work and accomplish something pretty special. We filled all of our allotted spots for the 2012 event in 61 minutes – way back in July. There are two remarkably emotional occasions that surface each year, and the weight of those moments never seems to diminish: the first is when we lay out the photos of the 343 FDNY members that were killed. To see all of those photos on a table is a stark reminder of what happened. It takes all of the pictures in the newspapers, and all of the stories that you find on television; and puts a face on the loss. Each climber takes one of the photos and carries it with them up the 110 flights of stairs – and trust me when I tell you, there are times that the photo is the one carrying the climber. The second moment is when we are giving our little speeches before we start the climb, and we have the opportunity to look out over the firefighters and see what 343 firefighters look like. It’s a breathtaking and goosebump filled experience as you think about all of the experience, the humor, the families, the support, and the love that was lost that day.
Since I help out with the event, several of the other event volunteers and I climb early – before everyone else gets there. This year, six of us made our own journey up the stairs, one step at a time, 110 stories up. It was a pleasure to again make that trip with Adam, Doug, and Thomas, and it was a treat to be able to do it with Dave and Jill for the first time. We also were able to showcase a very special flag, sent to us from a good friend that flew it on a mission in Afghanistan last Sept 11 – on the 10th anniversary of the attacks. The day was topped off in a most humbling fashion: spending it with the family of one of the FDNY members that was killed. Through the climb, I have made some amazing connections and friendships, and for those, I am forever grateful.
This year, I climbed for Ray Downey and I celebrated Kevin Dowdell. To those two and to the 341 others that died on 9/11, as well as to those that have been added to that list due to 9/11 related illness: I tell you that we remember. I tell you that we carry your memory with us and inside us. I tell you that we will keep climbing, and I tell you that we won’t ever forget.
PS – thanks to Adam and Tim for the pictures. Also, a very special shout out to the building at 1801 California and the tenants of that building for their unending commitment to making a great climb happen each year on 9/11!