9/11 Memorial Stair Climb held Sunday: Event honors fallen heroes of Sept. 11

SAN DIEGO - An event to honor the 343 firefighters and other rescue workers who died in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11 was held Sunday.

The 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, which began just after 8 a.m., will raise money for programs that help injured firefighters and their families.

Firefighters, law enforcement officers, military personnel and civilians climbed the stairwells of the Hilton San Diego Bayfront hotel for 110 stories in remembrance of their sacrifice.

For some it was done in workout clothes. For others, it included more than 60 pounds of firefighter gear.

Participant Dion Dadila said, "It kept me going, seeing those firefighters with their suits."

With each step, those lost remained close to their hearts. The photo and names of 403 first responders who died on 9/11 were printed on each climber's badge reminding them about what this memorial was about.

"It was surreal really because I want to do him justice and make him proud," said participant Leilina Lechner. "But at the same time, you're sad but happy you're here. It's very humbling."

Jerry Burkey, the executive director of Firefighter Aid, said, "This event is a living memorial to the heroes who could not complete the 110 floor journey 12 years ago. It ensures that we never forget."

The event – which is in its third year – has doubled in size from 400 last year to 800 participants this year, making up 70 teams of first responders, families and coworkers ready to take on this challenge.

It is a challenge that firefighters Jake Hageman and Donnie Butz are more than willing to tackle.

"We're just here to honor the ones who have fallen doing this job," said Butz.

Lt. Joe Torrillo, a retired Fire Department of New York firefighter who was trapped in the rubble of the World Trade Center and survived, spoke about his experiences.

Similar events are scheduled nationwide in advance of Wednesday's anniversary of the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.


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