Firefighters climb in memory of 9/11 rescuers

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – The bell rang 20 times. Signal 5-5-5-5. It’s a solemn tradition signifying the loss of a firefighter in the line of duty.

On Saturday, those bells rang for the firefighters who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Local firefighters climbed 110 stories to honor the more than 300 fallen firefighters. It’s a symbolic climb – the World Trade Centers were also 110 stories high.

“I get to come home at the end of my shift. I get to kiss my wife. I get to see my kids. There’s a lot of guys who don’t get to do that. I climb for them today,” says Montgomery County firefighter Jaymie Birney.

He strapped on his full turnout gear for the 9-11 Memorial Stair Climb. It weighs about 85 pounds.

Each fallen firefighter has an ambassador to carry their name up and down those stairs. A badge pinned to Birney’s chest is a picture of fallen New York City firefighter Thomas Haskill Jr.

“Every name on that badge will go up. If we don’t have enough people, we’ll climb with more than one. Nobody gets left behind,” he says.

At moments during the morning, a beep sounded and a hush fell over the crowd. At 8:46 am, an announcement was made.

“Nearly 12 years ago at this moment on Sept. 11, 2001, American Airline Flight 11 was flown into the (north) tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. All the 92 souls on board the aircraft and untold hundreds in the building lost their lives. This event was just the beginning, launching the largest response of emergency personnel in this nation’s history.”

A moment of silence followed.

“In the fire service there’s a brotherhood…when we lose a brother anywhere in the world it’s like one of us goes with them,” says Harry Lancellotti with the Air Force Reserve Command’s 459th Air Refueling Wing at Joint Base Andrews. He wore a crash suit that weighs about 30 pounds. “Obviously I’m doing it with less gear than they did on that day, but I want to see what they went through.”

“We’re going to attack these stairs like there’s no tomorrow and just remember all the fallen individuals who lost their lives,” says Loudoun County firefighter recruit Jerry Dean.

The registration fees are donated to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

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