A day to never forget, for many Sept. 11, 2001 is also a day of sacrifice as the first responders who thought not of their safety but their duty to their fellow man. This is why firefighters from all over the nation participate in a stair climb to remember those who lost their lives that day and even years later due to complications.
Recently Duncan, Marlow and Central High Fire Departments took part in the Oklahoma City 9/11 Stair Climb.
Zach Huffman, Duncan firefighter, said this was his third time taking part.
“The 9/11 Stair Climb is an event held all over the USA in many of the larger cities around this time every year where firefighters climb in recognition of the 343 firefighter lives lost that day,” he said. “The stair climb in OKC was held on Sept. 7, 2019. Each person that registered for the climb paid a fee for a spot on the list.”
The money from this goes on to help even more firefighters.
“The money raised from the event is put on the following years stair climb and also provides a place to stay for families of firefighters at the burn center in OKC,” Huffman said. “Just this year alone, the center has been able to place 4 families of Oklahoma firemen in the apartment as a free place to stay while their loved ones were in the burn center.”
The name Huffman received was Lieutenant Gregg Atlas of Engine 10.
“He was 45 years old, a farmer who raised pigs and cows, loved to garden and share the produce with his family and friends, enjoyed hunting and fishing, had a wife and two kids,” he said.
For Huffman, it is personal why he takes part.
“I participate in the stair climb to show gratitude to the 343 firefighters who gave their lives to rescue the victims of the 9/11 attack,” he said. “We owe it to the firefighters and their families to show them that they aren't forgotten and not will they be. To this day we've lost over 200 more firefighters to injuries, sicknesses and cancer from the 9/11 terrorist attack.”
This year the Duncan Fire Department had eight participants, according to Huffman and that is the most they had in one year.
“We all enjoy going to the event, so much that we use our personal vacation days and enjoy trade shifts with equal rank firefighters just to be able to participate in the stair climb,” he said. “It's nice to be able to reconnect with fellow firefighters and meet new ones from across the state.”
As all the firefighters who took to the stairs, the tired legs, the sore backs and the rolling sweat is all in memory.
“We want people to remember the fallen from not only that day, but the others we've lost along the way,” Huffman said. “There's kind of a little saying and it’s a dang good one at that.. it says, ‘They did, so we will.’”