By Joseph Hamrick
The Commerce Journal
Climbing up 110 flights of stairs not knowing what lies ahead takes a special kind of courage, according to members of the Commerce Fire Department.
Six members of the Commerce Fire Department participated in the 9/11 Stair Climb at the Renaissance Tower in Dallas to honor the 343 first responders who lost their lives 12 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001.
Commerce Firefighter Cade White said he climbed so he would never forget the lives lost on that day.
“It’s all about remembrance and helping those charities out with donations,” he said.
Each firefighter was given an accountability tag of a firefighter who lost their life on Sept. 11.
White said it was knowing who he was climbing for that kept him going for the grueling two-hour climb up 110 flights while wearing 55-pounds of gear.
“It was getting that leg to the next step,” he said, adding that the climb had a very personal meaning to him because the person he climbed for, Adam Rand, was not that different from himself. “His favorite past times were hunting and fishing, and he was preparing for his wedding. The same thing I’m doing right now.”
Captain William Hall said knowing that the firefighters who climbed on 9/11 did not give up, encouraged he and the rest of the Commerce firefighters not to quit.
“It was tough,” he said. “But what kept us all going was knowing how they never gave up.”
Jason Maxwell, whose mother is a captain for the Plano Fire Department, was sitting in Algebra class in 8th grade at Greenville Middle School when one of the teachers told them what happened.
Maxwell said it was his mother’s reaction to the attacks that will be etched in his mind.
“At the time I knew it was something terrible but I didn’t realize how big that was. It wasn’t until I got home that night when my mom and I were watching the news and keeping up with everything going on,” he said. “I remember that’s what moved her the most was those 343 firefighters who were trying to do as much as they could to help knowing what was up there; just knowing that it was going to be hard.”
According to Maxwell, the firefighters who gave their lives that day are true heroes.
“They just knew it was bigger than they were,” he said. “And they continued going for 110 flights. That’s amazing.”
Firefighter Joe Martello said he made the climb because they made the climb.
“Knowing they made the climb not knowing what’s up there and going into an unknown situation,” he said. “It’s about remembering your brothers and thinking about what was going through their minds.”
According to Martello, knowing they climbed for firefighters who gave their lives on Sept. 11 was a very moving experience.
“At the top there’s the accountability board,” he said. “It was a very humbling experience putting their names on that board.”
For Commerce Firefighter Gabe Wittkopf, getting to honor those first responders with his fellow team bonds them closer together.
“I enjoyed the climb because it’s honoring and respecting those who gave their lives,” he said. “It’s what the 12 guys here and the volunteer firefighters do every day.”
This is not the first time members from the Commerce Fire Department have made the climb, and Wittkopf said it won’t be the last.
“The Commerce Fire Department is going to continue to do it,” he said. “We’re going to continue to do it and continue to grow.”