Sunday, September 22, 2019
Sparta firefighters recently participated in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Pictured, from left, are Robert Arnold, Zach VanWormer, Darien Talavera, Jason McAlear and Kody Smith. Contributed photos.The fire bell sits at what would be the equivalent of the 78th floor, which was as far as firefighters made it on 9/11. As climbers reach the “78th floor” they ring the bell in honor of the fallen firefighter they climb with.

A climb to honor those who fell on 9/11

Sparta firefighters attend event to remember comrades’ sacrifice

Almost everyone can recall where they were and what they were doing on that fateful day 18 years ago when the World Trade Center complex in lower Manhattan came crashing down. Erv’s Sparta Area Fire Protection District Assistant Fire Chief Robert Arnold can recall that he was in Miss Hendrickson’s seventh grade science class when another teacher came through the door screaming that America was under attack.

“The rest of the day we just watched TV wondering what was going to happen,” Arnold said.

The September 11 attacks were a series of four pre-coordinated terrorist attacks against the United States that killed nearly 3,000 Americans and injured over 6,000 others. The attacks were the single deadliest incident for firefighters in the history of the U.S with 343 killed.

Now, firefighters from all over the country, as well as everyday citizens, live on to honor those 343 firefighters who gave their lives during the tragic events on September 11, 2001.

Five firefighters from Sparta recently traveled to Lambeau Field in Green Bay for the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, which is hosted annually by Pierce Manufacturing, the global leader in fire apparatus innovations.

Each attendee is invited to climb the equivalent of 110 stories, which is the height of the fallen World Trade Center Tower, on the steps of Lambeau Field. Each climber is given a badge with the name and photograph of one of the fallen firefighters to symbolically climb with one of the fallen.

“It has a picture of them, their name, their engine company and whatever their position was that day,” Arnold added.

At what would be the equivalent of the 78th floor of the World Trade Center towers, which is as far as the firefighters were able to climb on 9/11, each climber rings the fire bell in honor of the fallen firefighter on their badge.

“It puts into perspective what they went through and it’s a good way to remember them. It’s a good way to reflect on the day,” Arnold said, adding each series of 9/11 events is time stamped on big signs inside the stadium as you climb. “It’s sad to read them. Not only were they climbing with their air pack, they were fighting for life, carrying their tools, carrying their high-rise pack and at least 100-feet of hose. I can’t imagine what they went through.”

The majority of the active firefighters who attend the event come dressed in full turnout gear, which is roughly an additional 40 pounds of weight. Local firefighters Arnold, Zach VanWormer, Darien Talavera, Jason McAlear and Kody Smith all wore their turnout gear during the climb.

Arnold took it a step further and wore his face piece on oxygen before it ran out 24 minutes into his climb.

“You really need to set your pace out slow because your adrenaline is kicking in and you’ll burn yourself out very quickly,” Arnold said. “The first couple of times I did this, it was tough.”

This was the second time Arnold attended the event at Green Bay, he’s also done the stair climb at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN and US Bank in Milwaukee. VanWormer, Smith and McAlear had all attended events before as well, but for Talavera, this was his first climb.

According to Arnold, the event in Green Bay is the best attended and it raises the most money; $635,000 was raised during the event for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

The foundation was created by Congress in an effort to honor America’s fallen firefighters. The organization’s main purpose is to remember fallen fire heroes, provide resources to assist their survivors and work within the Fire Service Community to reduce firefighter deaths.

The climb starts and finishes on the northwest end of Lambeau Field and the route is one full lap around the stadium. Climb start times are deployed in waves, with 343 climbers per wave reflecting on the events of 9/11.

“There is nothing to think about that is anyway near the equivalent of what each and every individual went through that day,” Arnold said. “Those firefighters went to bed with their families, in the fire station or wherever not knowing what they would be facing that morning when the pager went off. It’s awful.”

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