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Stair Climb Remembers the Fallen Firefighters of 9/11

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Alissa Zhu
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KSMU

Firefighters, servicemen and civilians climbed the stairs at Hammons Field over the weekend to remember fallen firefighters in Springfield’s second annual 9-11 Memorial Stair Climb. KSMU’s Alissa Zhu has the story.

Bagpipes and drums kept time for 230 climbers as they ascended and descended the equivalent of 110 stories that represent the number of floors of the World Trade Center. Bagpipes and drums have long held ceremonial importance in the ranks of firefighters, originating from a historically strong Irish influence in the fire service.

“To be part of something like this, to know that we have firemen from all over the Midwest climbing today it really means a lot that even though it’s been almost 13 years ago now, we’ve not forgotten.”

That was Adam Neff, the coordinator of Saturday’s event and the Battalion Chief of the Nixa Fire Protection District. Neff, like many other firefighters at the event, donned partial or full gear to pay tribute to the 343 members of New York City’s Fire Department that died on September 11th.

Richard Barnes is Captain Two of the Sparta Fire Department.

“I’m wearing my full bunker gear which includes boots, pants, jacket, helmet, and then we’re also wearing our SCBA packs which is our Self Contained Breathing Apparatus Packs and they weigh roughly 25 pounds extra,” Barnes said.

In addition to this equipment, Barnes, like all other climbers, wore a photo badge of one of the fallen 343 around his neck. He symbolically carried the firefighter for 2200 steps around the stadium.

“Being a firefighter myself, you know, all of us are brothers from one department to another. I mean we’re all in it together and it makes me feel proud to be able to walk for the brothers who can no longer do it,” Barnes said.

The assistant chief of the Normal Fire Department in Illinois, John Grussing, traveled about 400 miles with his team to participate in the climb.

“I lost a friend that was on FDNY I was in New York City after the attacks and saw what went on and was at the funeral and was at the pile. For people who weren’t there, you can’t really imagine what it was like there and for me, I don’t want to let myself or anyone else to forget what those guys did that day,” Grussing said.

Proceeds from the stair climb were given to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.  They’ll go towards providing assistance to the surviving families and coworkers of the New York City firefighters who died on September 11th.