More than 500 people, many of whom were firefighters in full uniform, climbed 2,200 steps at Chicago’s Soldier Field on Saturday to remember the victims of Sept. 11.
“I’m paying my respects to everyone who died that day,” said German Moreno, a Chicago firefighter. Mr Moreno, 38, said he was drawn to the profession, in part, by the heroism of the emergency workers killed on 9/11. Mr Moreno climbed the stairs in full gear on Saturday morning.
The event in Chicago was one of 40 Stair Climbs across the country. Participants climbed or walked the equivalent of 110 stories of the World Trade Center, each wearing a badge with the name and photo of one of the emergency workers killed in the attacks.
Several firefighters from the Chicago area participated.
Omar Juarez, 23, and Westmont, Ill. A U.S. firefighter was too young to remember 9/11, but he said the events resonated with him nonetheless.
“It can happen to any of us. It makes you realize how fragile life is,” Mr. Juarez said.
Marissa Price, 25, of Westmont firefighter, said she found herself thinking about what might have been going through the minds of New York firefighters as they worked to save people that day.
“I’m thinking of them waking up like a normal day and going to work and then facing the horrors of what happened, walking those towers,” she said. “Many of them were my age at the time and made the ultimate sacrifice.”
A dozen 911 dispatchers from Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management also took part in the memorial climb on Saturday.
One dispatcher, Brenda Holyfield, said she was at work 20 years ago, and often thinks about the dispatchers who called that day.
“I can feel how they felt,” said Ms. Holyfield, 47. “Your heart is broken because they must have felt helpless but keep calm and do your job.”
Before the climb began, members of the Chicago Fire Department presented colours, bagpipers played “Amazing Grace” and Talia Martino, a 17-year senior at James B. Conant High School in suburban Hoffman Estates, sang the national anthem.