First responders participate in 9/11 stair climb tribute

By Daisy Silos | DFW Newsflash | December 2017

Hundreds of people gathered in Downtown Dallas for the 7th annual 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb on Saturday, Sept. 9.

The stair climb honors fallen first responders who died on Sept. 11, 2001. Founder and event coordinator, John Barrett, felt it was important to host a stair climb in Dallas after participating in a stair climb at the Fire Department Instructor Conference in Indianapolis in 2011.

“As I finished the climb, I knew I needed to start this tradition in Dallas. As soon as I finished the climb, I made some phone calls to some friends, and the rest as they say is history,” Barrett said.

The entire event is choreographed to the timeline of events that occurred on Sept. 11, beginning at 8 a.m. with a group photo of all the climbers in front of the Renaissance Tower where the event takes place, followed by the opening ceremony.

“We have an opening ceremony that has the same elements you see in a fallen public safety officer memorial service,” Barrett said. “We also have a keynote speaker every year that has a connection to 9/11.”

This year’s keynote speaker was Lieutenant Joe Torrillo was a 25-year Lieutenant with the New York City Fire Department. Torrillo survived the collapses of the World Trade Center Twin Towers and now travels the world as a professional speaker.

Following the opening ceremony, at 8:46 a.m. they pause for a moment of silence marking the time that Flight 11 hit the North Tower. Afterward, the climbers enter the Renaissance Tower to begin their climb up two laps of 55 stories equaling to 110 stories, the same height as the former Twin Towers. Each climber is assigned a picture and a name of a fallen first responder from the tragedy. Once the climbers get to the top, they place that responder’s name on a board and ring a bell indicating the person they climbed for has reached the top.

Irving firefighter Jace Allen participated in the stair climb for the first time this year. Allen felt honored to participate in the climb.

“It’s a good workout for sure,” Allen said. “The first round wasn’t too bad, and I got through it pretty quick, but the second round is a little bit tougher.”

There are only 343 firefighters, 70 law enforcement officers and 9 EMTs active duty first responders who can participate in the climb to represent the same number of first responders who died on 9/11. First responders from all over Texas participate in the climb as well as some from outside the state.

“Our climb fills up in a matter of seconds, so the demand to participate is there,” Barrett said. “It’s a very sought after climb. A lot of climbers try to do it every year, but we only have a handful of climbers who have participated all seven years.”

This was the fourth year Irving firefighter Christopher Zmolik participated in the stair climb. Zmolik enjoys doing the stair climb, because he enjoys the company of his fellow firemen.

“It’s just a great experience, and you get to be with your guys and kind of experience what those first responders went through, obviously not the stress they were under, but you do it as a team together like we always are at the station,” Zmolik said. “I feel like it’s the least I can do to just climb and put their name at the top and being a part of it is amazing.”