September 11 is a date that will forever be etched in the memory of every American. Yes, I remember where I was that morning. It was my son’s first day of school and we were outside waiting for the school bus. He was climbing on the huge rocks in our apartment complex, excited that he got to ride the BIG yellow bus finally! The bus was running late and just after 9am, my neighbor came outside and told us what happened. It was a surreal moment and we couldn’t really believe it and at the time, didn’t have any concept of the magnitude of what she told us. After he was off to school, my mom headed home and I went back inside to turne on the TV. It was at this moment that I was hit with what was really going on. I sat in front of that TV for the rest of the day… trying to really understand everything that was going on and not really believing it.
16 years ago, America stood still.
Now, we stand together to remember those you never got to go home to their loved ones that day. To those that lost loved ones, that gave the ultimate sacrifice.
This year marked the 5th year for the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb sponsored by the Green Bay Metro Fire Department and Pierce Mfg (as well as several other local sponsors). The event is a tribute to the 343 firefighters who gave their lives during the tragic events at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Each participant is given a badge with the name and photo of one of the firefighters that lost their life that tragic day. Climbers make their way around the lower bowl of Lambeau Field, climbing up and down almost every flight of stairs around the field.
This year, the event brought a whole new perspective for me. If you recall, last year I did this climb myself (that recap can be found here). Yes I had other friends that were doing it also, but we all went at our own pace of got it done. This year, I found out my friend and fellow Skirt Sports Ambassador Dawn was coming up for the climb with a crew from the West Bend Fire Department. She invited me to join them. I had the honor of climbing with Firefighter/Paramedic Jeremy Kolberg as well as some amazing ladies, who were wives of other members of the WBFD.
The opening ceremony for this event is always a moving one! Remembering the events of that day, and how they have affected all of every since. All funds from the event go directly to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Since 1992, the non-profit foundation has developed and expanded programs to honor the these fallen heroes. The organization’s mission is to honor and remember America’s fallen fire heroes, provide resources to assist their survivors in rebuilding their lives, and work within the Fire Service Community to reduce firefighter deaths. This year, there was a total of there were 2169 climbers and $110,000!! Each year this events gets bigger and better! It is very humbling standing at the opening ceremonies surrounded by firefighters, in full gear from all over the area. I saw crews from all over Wisconsin, Upper Michigan and I heard there were several from other states too!
This year, the weather was a concern for all of the climbers. Last year, it was cold and rainy, making the steps in the stadium wet. This year, Mother nature blessed us with sunshine… and lots of it! The temperature in the bowl was climbing quickly! When we started out, we told Jeremy that he was stuck with all of us girls, to the end. We started together, we were finishing together. When one of us needed to stop, we all stopped. Usually, every other climb up from near field level, we took a break. Before long we all were feeling the heat and knew that this was going to be a true testament of will. But we were not going to stop.
Once we reached about the halfway point around the bowl, we stopped in one of the tunnels so that we call could cool off with the amazing breeze that was coming into the bowl. The breeze felt amazing and Jeremy took this as on opportunity to get off his feet and just sit for a bit. The heat of the day, really made us stop and think about what those firefighters went through as they climbed the World Trade Center. The heat inside tho was so much more intense that what we were dealing with, and they didn’t have the opportunity to stop and rest, have people handing them bottles of water as they went by, or have any cool breeze to help cool them off. It was at this point that we asked him again what we could do to help. To help take a little of the weight off of him, we all decided that we were going to take turns carrying his air tank.We were going to get to the end together… no matter what it took.
Tricia strapped on the tank first and we were off. One flight of stairs at a time. Watching the hundreds of firefighters that came out to support their fallen brothers will always bring you to that humbling place. They were all out there, climbing in full gear, stopping periodically but never giving up. Many of the walked in silence with their fellow firefighters, determined to give everything they could, for those that gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Dawn was next and completely went beast mode and carried that tank up and down 2 sections of the bowl! She said it truly gives the climb a new perspective! Getting yourself up and down the stairs was one thing, but the extra weight added a whole new level of tough! But it was also important to remember, this was not a race. There was not starting gun, no awards to those that finished first, in fact, there was no finish line. Just the honor of knowing you did something to honor those you couldn’t finish that climb.
One of the most moving moments of this event is the Memory Bell that is placed at the equivalent of the 78th floor of the World Trade Center towers, which is the highest floor firefighters reached on 9/11. Upon reaching this point, you are able to ring the bell in honor of the fire fighter you are climbing for. After passing that point, you are then climbing in memory of that firefighter, to complete the climb that they were not able to make that day.
Before long, Sarah was off and climbing! We all stuck together and stopped when we needed to! There was never a shortage of smiles along the way!
When the tank was passed on to me, I finally knew exactly what the other girls meant when they said it brought this to a whole new level This was not an easy task! As I looked around and so so many of the firefighters, still plugging along, I knew that I could make it a few flights with the tank. Slowly but surely, we would get there.
Then it was time to pass the tank pack to Jeremy. He started with all his gear and was determined to finish with all his gear! And he did just that! We all did it! It took a team effort, but that is what being part of something like this is! Together we can make a difference! I am completely blessed to have been able to participate in this event again and had the chance to do it with my new friends at the West bend Fire Department!
I leave you with a few more photos from the day and the challenge to come out and join us next year! Even if you are not climbing with one of the fire departments, get your friends together and come experience this amazing, humbling event! I know that I plan on being there! Let’s #FillTheBowl!