For the amount of activity happening at the firefighters training facility in League City Saturday, it was a somber occasion.
With a moment of silence scheduled at exactly 9:59 a.m. and again at 10:28 a.m., the fifth annual Memorial Stair Climb ended at noon with a rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
Held in locations across the country, first responders, firefighters and citizens annually climb 110 stories in remembrance of those who died when the 110 stories of the twin towers of the World Trade Center fell on Sept. 11, 2001.
Those climbing and descending a total of 110 flights included seven from the Friendswood Volunteer Fire Department.
“We do this as a memorial to the firefighters who lost their lives (in 9-11),” said Friendswood volunteer firefighter Kimberly McCord, who recalls watching TV coverages as the second tower fell 14 years ago. “They went up there without even thinking about it– just trying to save some lives,” she said. “It’s something you never forget.”
To equal the 110 flights, participants climbed the center’s training tower stairs 27 times.
Some, including Friendswood firefighters Kyle Comeaux and T.J. Gonzales, did the strenuous climb encumbered with heavy firefighting gear.
“We wanted to be as close as we could to what the firefighters at the World Trade Center went through, to put ourselves in their shoes so we don’t forget,” Gonzales said. “We allow our bodies to go through that knowing we are able to walk out and later on feel the pain of it, but they weren’t able to. They made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Of the more than 3,000 were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, 71 were law enforcement and 343 were responding firefighters.
Jeff Smith, who has been a firefighter for 34 years, has participated in 9-11 events since the attack, including the 100,000 firefighter march in Washington in 2002.
“Participating in the 9/11 memorials is just one way of coping with the losses and remembrance of those I knew,” he said. “The fire service is pretty small after 34 years, and several of us in the Friendswood VFD were students of many of the FDNY firefighters in suppression, rescue, HazMat and Special Operations. This loss was very personal.”
Friendswood participants also included Sandra Flores, Brandon Britt and Russ Lewandowski.
Saturday’s event was held by the League City Volunteer Fire Department and the Nassau Bay Volunteer Fire Department.
With more than 100 volunteers supplemented with a paid day crew Monday through Friday, the Friendswood Volunteer Fire Department currently operates four stations covering about 21 square miles. An open house event for the community is planned for Oct. 11.