Eighteen years ago, the 9/11 terrorist attacks claimed the lives of nearly three thousand people, including 343 first responders — firefighters, police and EMS personnel. To honor those who died, the first 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb will be held this month in Centre County.
Participants in the inaugural Central Pennsylvania 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb will climb 2,200 steps — the equivalent of the 110 floors in each of the twin towers. The event will take place at Penn State’s Medlar Field on Saturday, Sept. 28, and is co-hosted by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, WHVL-TV and the State College Spikes.
Firefighter Scott Fleck works for the Horton Township Volunteer Fire Department and is helping organize the event in Centre County. Having participated in two national climbing events in New York, Fleck said they are humbling experiences.
“For the first one, I didn’t really want to train,” he said. “I just wanted to experience it, but it’s always a little bit harder when you have extra weight to carry.”
After first participating in the climb wearing full gear, Fleck said he did some training for his second climb.
Registration is open to all ages and costs $30 per person. Participants may enter as individuals or as a team. They will receive a T-shirt and a name badge in honor of a fallen firefighter. Individuals may also climb in honor of a friend or family member.
“You don’t have to be a firefighter, police or EMS to participate in the climb,” Fleck said.
While the event is meant to honor the 343 first responders who died on 9/11, Fleck said it also helps remember the 200 firefighters who died from illnesses connected to their work at the World Trade Center.
“There’s a lot of line of duty deaths,” Fleck said, adding that a fire chief close to him died weeks before he did a 9/11 climb. “That really hit home for me, so I climbed in his memory.”
The first stair climb was held in 2005 when five Colorado firefighters convened at a high-rise building in Denver and climbed 110 flights of stairs. Each year, the number of participants grew until it was capped at 343 participants in 2008.
About 20 participants are registered for the event at Medlar Field, but Fleck hopes to see that number reach between 50 to 100 climbers.
“It’s not a race. It’s not a timed event,” he said. “It’s just a great way to raise funds and remember those who died in the line of duty.”
All proceeds will be donated to the NFFF to help support families of local fallen firefighters and the Fire Department of New York’s Counseling Services Unit. The NFFF was formed in 1992 by the United States Congress to help remember fallen firefighters. Since then, the nonprofit has developed and expanded programs to honor first responders, their families and colleagues.