NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. --
Ninety pounds of equipment weighed on the backs of hundreds of first responders as they gradually climbed each flight of stairs, step-by-step.
To honor and remember the firefighters who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, members of the Joint Base Andrews Fire Department and 11th Security Forces Squadron took part in the 2016 National Capital Region 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb and 5K Walk at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor, Md., Sept. 10, 2016.
“This event was a very challenging experience,” said Staff Sgt. Heather Clear, 11th Civil Engineer Squadron firefighter crew chief. “What we felt wasn’t even close to what the first responders felt going through the twin towers, but it’s very humbling trying to imagine going through their steps.”
Approximately 21 JBA firefighters and police officers attended the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation event, which hosted more than 600 local community members taking part in either walking a 5K or climbing 110 flights of stairs.
“It’s important for us to be part of this because we’re partners with Prince George’s County and all the surrounding communities,” Clear said. “We work together on regular day-to-day operations, so we like to come out here and support the other bases along with the local community.”
The number of stairs climbed marked the same amount the firefighters climbed in the World Trade Center Towers 15 years ago.
“I was trying to imagine what they were feeling on that day,” said Staff Sgt. Gregory Skrjanc, 11th Security Forces Squadron emergency services team leader. “It has to be a completely different experience with all the chaos that was going on. I was just trying to put myself in the mindset of what they were going through.”
In addition to the climb, participants paid tribute to the 343 first responders who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks by wearing an identification card of one hero while following their final path.
“[The first responders’] stories were inspiration as we climbed and walked,” said Marc S. Bashoor, Prince George’s County Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department fire chief. “We did this in memory of those 343 souls and every firefighter who has lost their life in service to others.”