If you notice four firefighters in full turnout gear entering Snap Fitness in Benton, don't fret--it's likely not an emergency, just time to begin training for the upcoming 110-floor climb. On Sept. 7, four firefighters with Benton Fire Dept. will honor the 343 fallen firefighters in the 9/11 Memorial Climb at Discovery Park of America in Union City, Tennessee.
Chris Young, one of the participating firefighters who also serves as the department's chaplain, said a friend of his, Dale Totten, has participated in the memorial climb and recently shared the story. He said that was his inspiration and he in turn challenged the other firefighters in his department to participate. Three rose to the challenge: Clay Copeland, Keegan Cole and Michael Murphy.
The four will be among numerous firefighters from many departments at the Discovery Park, as well as thousands across America who participate in memorial stair climb events at various locations to climb the 110 flights of stairs just as the firefighters did when climbing the World Trade Center. Participating firefighters will also wear full turnout gear while climbing, which adds an estimated 70 pounds.
"Totten was a Marine in Vietnam and he said the stair climb is the hardest thing he's ever done," Young said. "We started training a couple of weeks ago and we plan to train three or four days a week. It's been a real blessing for Snap to let us use their stair climbers. It's hard to find stairwells around here, especially in the air conditioning."
In addition to offering the facility as a free place to train, Kim Robinson with Snap Fitness has also offered her expertise, free of charge, to the firefighters. She said Benton Fire Chief Harry Green was recently working a health fair where the two were chatting and when he mentioned what his guys were planning to do, she jumped at the opportunity to assist.
"I jumped on the idea of sponsoring them and letting them use our facilities. I've done some stair climbs, obviously not in full gear, but I love the sport of stair climbing and I love helping them because they help our community so not only are they trying to achieve their goal, we want to help them remain healthy so they can help others," she said. "Anything they need, we're here for them. We want to see them get their results and achieve their goal and have fun doing it."
Young said the climb isn't just about the physical challenge, though, they're doing so in memory of the 343 firefighters who sacrificed themselves that day and for everyone else who lost their lives in the attack on the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.
"It changed our worlds as Americans and individually it did too. In all the footage, you see everyone running out except the firemen, they're running in. It's just what you do," he said. "All firefighters are our brotherhood and even though we're far away from New York, they're still our brothers and we'll never forget the 343 firefighters who died that day."
Young and Copeland clearly remembered the day of the attack, where they were and what was going on around them when they first heard the news and watched the footage on live television but Cole, 21, and Murphy, 20, are too young to remember the details of the day. But, "firefighting is a brotherhood," Murphy explained, and they weren't going to miss the opportunity to honor their brothers.
Benton Fire Chief Harry Green said, "I'm proud of the guys for wanting to do this, I know it will take a lot of time and effort from each one. We also extend a big 'Thank you' to Snap Fitness for partnering with the fire department and allowing the guys the use of their facility. Sept. 11, 2001 is a day that will always be in our hearts and minds as it changed the fiber of America, and I couldn't be more proud of Chris, Clay, Keegan and Michael for honoring our fallen brothers in this way."
The 9/11 Memorial Climb begins at 11 a.m. at Discovery Park and guests will be able to watch and encourage firefighters as they climb the stair case 10 times. Following the climb, there will be a moment of silence in remembrance of all who lost their lives during the attack on Sept. 11, 2001. More information is available by visiting discoveryparkofamerica.com. More information about 9/11 Memorial Climbs is available by visiting firehero.org.