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Home News-Telegram News 4 SS fireman make 110-story climb to honor those fallen in attack on Twin Towers

4 SS fireman make 110-story climb to honor those fallen in attack on Twin Towers

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Sept. 11, 2001 is a day America will never forget. Many have found ways to honor the individuals who died that horrific day. One way that firefighters and law enforcement officers remember their fallen brethren is by holding a memorial stair climb on or around Sept. 11 each year.

 

Four members of Sulphur Springs Fire Department loaded their families up Saturday and headed to downtown Dallas for the 3rd Annual Dallas 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb. Capt. Duane Sprague and firefighters Bruce Millard, Rodney Caudle and Joseph Evans were among the 343 firefighters and 70 law enforcement officers who made the 110-floor ascent. The group consisted of firefighters and officers from 119 departments from three different states.

“It was satisfying to honor and pay respect to the men and women who lost their lives that day,” said Evans.


The Sulphur Springs firemen noted the climb was made not only for the many firefighters and police officer who died on 9/11, but the many civilians and volunteers who lost their lives that day as well as the 22 firefighters from Texas who died in the line of duty over the last year.

The event is designed to mimic the events of that fateful day, with each climber given a biographical sketch and accountability tag of a New York City firefighter or police officer who gave his or her life on Sept. 11, 2001. In full gear, each participant carried that fallen 9/11 comrade’s accountability tag all 110 flights to place it on the board at the very top of the climb.

Caudle climbed in memory of Battalion Chief Fred Scheffold and Sprague Battalion Chief Joseph Marchbanks Jr., both Fire Department of New York 343, Battalion 12. Millard and Evans climbed in memory of FDNY 343 Battalion 48 Firefighter Michael Bocchio and Battalion Chief Joseph Grzelak. 

“Battalion Chief Joseph Grzelak had numerous years in service,” said Evans, noting what an honor it was to represent him, to be able to make the climb up all 110 flights of stairs and put his tag on the memorial board. “It was special to be able to climb some with his name and picture attached to you. It gave more inspiration to get finished, that lanyard with their picture, rank and name.”

“It was a great inspiration and honor to climb in honor of those guys,” Caudle said.

All four of the firemen who participated are already planning for next year’s climb of remembrance.

Saturday marked firefighter Millard’s second time to make the climb. Last year, he was working part-time for SSFD, but upon learning of the event, went with a group of firefighters from Commerce. He said he plans to participate in the memorial climb for 10 years, and hopes to be able to make the 10th climb at the memorial event in New York.

While working with Sprague, Millard mentioned his prior experience and an intent to participate this year. Sprague was on board. Caudle and Evans then heard them talking and were enthusiastic to participate this year as well.

They each began training months ago so they could make the 110 flight climb — 106 stories higher than the tallest building in SSFD’s response area. Sprague ran a few miles and did some leg strengthening. The three firemen walked and ran some in their air packs and did some strengthening exercises, too. But, were no way fully prepared for the ascent in full bunker gear — an added weight of about 50 pounds each, including air packs. They suited up at 7:50 a.m. and remained in full gear until after lunch.

Each participant climbed all 55 stories, took the elevator down and started up again.

“It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done and one of the most gratifying,” Sprague said. “It was tough but very gratifying, a neat experience. ... by the time I reached the 110th floor, my legs were like Jell-O.”

The firemen said that by the time they’d begun to really feel the climb by the 70th and 80th floors, and couldn’t help but think how much more difficult it was for those New York firemen in 2001.

“They were carrying extra equipment. The commander reached the 93rd floor, around where the place was hit, before loosing communication. About 70-80 floors, I know how exhausted I was. When those guys go there, they still had to do their job. Those guys went up the step into an unknown fate, steadily pushing up. What were they thinking as they were closing in on that?” Sprague pondered. “When I got home, I watched a documentary on 9/11. I watched them walk up the street. They just kept going in.”

“Our conditions were optimal.  The building was air conditioned. There were no smoke, no heat, no people running down in panic,” Millard noted. 

Millard said being able to see and touch an I-beam from the Twin Towers which fell on 9/11 was a very moving experience. The I-beam is normally housed in the George Bush Presidential Library, but was brought to the location for the memorial climb.

“We were each guided by the I-beam, about to touch it,” Sprague said. “The neat thing about it was that they had it there. It’s like hallowed ground, it came from the towers where we lost so many lives that day.”

Walking into Renaissance Tower to make the climb among so many other firefighters and police officers in honor of the brave fallen, hearing the bagpipes and drums played, having family members of Dallas firemen who died in the line of duty present was very moving experience, one like no other, the SSFD members noted.

“Three hundred and 43 firefighters and 70 officers, helmets and hats off in honor of it, walking in and touching [the WTC I-beam]— it’s hard to say what that was like,” said Millard, still in awe of the experience.

“It was emotional to see all the people gathered there,” Caudle said.

“We were honored to be there but saddened at the same time. It was a lot of everything all rolled into one. I can’t wait until the next one,” Sprague said. “It was a good time, a wonderful experience. I’m proud we did it, happy to do it and proud to represent Sulphur Springs.”

Having their family present to cheer them on was also an added encouragement, especially seeing them as they started their second ascent. Their children were in awe of the I-bam from the  WTC, as well as the number of firefighters and officers present. 

Another awe inspiring aspect of the day, according to Caudle, was the camaraderie and fellowship among the many responders present.

When someone was lagging, it wasn’t uncommon to see another fireman or officer patting their comrade’s back giving them the encouragement to continue on in honor of the fallen.

Sprague said the volunteers staged every five to seven floors to hand out water, cheer and encouragement were wonderful. 

“We can’t say enough about the support they give, the water, cheer, words of encouragement. They looked at a lot of firemen and police officers that were on their way up. The first time we were all enthusiastic,” said Sprague, noting that as the climb began to wear on the participants, they conserved for the climb. “It was nice of the to be there and do that for us.”

Caudle, Evans, Millard and Sprague all plan to make the Dallas climb again next year. By Monday, all four had already started training again to be better prepared for next year’s memorial. And, some of the other member of SSFD indicated they plan to make the climb with them.building in SSFD’s response area. Sprague ran a few miles and did some leg strengthening. The three firemen walked and ran some in their air packs and did some strengthening exercises, too. But, they were no way fully prepared for the ascent in full bunker gear — an added weight of about 50 pounds each, including air packs. They suited up at 7:50 a.m. and remained in full gear until after lunch.

Each participant climbed all 55 stories, took the elevator down and started up again.

“It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done and one of the most gratifying,” Sprague said. “It was tough but very gratifying, a neat experience. ... by the time I reached the 110th floor, my legs were like Jell-O.”

The firemen said that by the time they’d begun to really feel the climb by the 70th and 80th floors, and they couldn’t help but think how much more difficult it was for those New York firemen in 2001.

“They were carrying extra equipment. The commander reached the 93rd floor, around where the place was hit, before loosing communication. About 70-80 floors, I know how exhausted I was. When those guys got there, they still had to do their job. Those guys went up the steps into an unknown fate, steadily pushing up. What were they thinking as they were closing in on that?” Sprague pondered. “When I got home, I watched a documentary on 9/11. I watched them walk up the street. They just kept going in.”

“Our conditions were optimal.  The building was air conditioned. There was no smoke, no heat, no people running down in panic,” Millard noted. 

Millard said being able to see and touch an I-beam from the Twin Towers which fell on 9/11 was a very moving experience. The I-beam is normally housed in the George Bush Presidential Library, but was brought to the location for the memorial climb.

“We were each guided by the I-beam, able to touch it,” Sprague said. “The neat thing about it was that they had it there. It’s like hallowed ground, it came from the towers where we lost so many lives that day.”

Walking into Renaissance Tower to make the climb among so many other firefighters and police officers in honor of the brave fallen, hearing the bagpipes and drums played, having family members of Dallas firemen who died in the line of duty present was a very moving experience, one like no other, the SSFD members noted.

“Three hundred and 43 firefighters and 70 officers, helmets and hats off in honor of it, walking in and touching [the WTC I-beam]— it’s hard to say what that was like,” said Millard, still in awe of the experience.

“It was emotional to see all the people gathered there,” Caudle said.

“We were honored to be there but saddened at the same time. It was a lot of everything all rolled into one. I can’t wait until the next one,” Sprague said. “It was a good time, a wonderful experience. I’m proud we did it, happy to do it and proud to represent Sulphur Springs.”

Having their family present to cheer them on was also an added encouragement, especially seeing them as they started their second ascent. Their children were in awe of the I-beam from the  WTC, as well as the number of firefighters and officers present. 

Another awe-inspiring aspect of the day, according to Caudle, was the camaraderie and fellowship among the many responders present.

When someone was lagging, it wasn’t uncommon to see another fireman or officer patting their comrade’s back giving them the encouragement to continue on in honor of the fallen, Evans said.

Sprague said the volunteers staged every five to seven floors to hand out water, cheer and encouragement were wonderful. 

“We can’t say enough about the support they give, the water, cheer, words of encouragement. They looked at a lot of firemen and police officers that were on their way up. The first time we were all enthusiastic,” said Sprague, noting that as the climb began to wear on the participants, they conserved for the climb. “It was nice of them to be there and do that for us.”

Caudle, Evans, Millard and Sprague all plan to make the Dallas climb again next year. By Monday, all four had already started training again to be better prepared for next year’s memorial. And, some of the other members of SSFD indicated they plan to make the climb with them.

 

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