Area firefighters make climb honoring 9/11 responders

Contributed photo

Benton firefighters (from left) Chris Young, Keagan Cole, Michael Murphy and Clay Copeland took part in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb hosted by the Discovery Park of America last Saturday. The Paducah Fire Department will participate in a similar event in Nashville on Sunday.

Last Saturday, several fire departments - including Benton, Mayfield, Bardwell, Fulton, Hickman, Arlington and Hardin - took part in a 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb at the Discovery Park of America in Union City, Tennessee.

It was the second year the park hosted a memorial climb, which brought out 60 firefighters from Kentucky and Tennessee, including four from the Benton Fire Department.

Firefighters climbed an 11-story-tall observation tower 10 times to simulate the 110 stories that New York firefighters climbed 18 years ago to rescue those trapped following the morning terrorist attacks in 2001.

"It was a very solemn experience, remembering the sacrifice that those other firemen made," said firefighter Chris Young of Benton. "It was also kind of a celebratory thing because (the New York firefighters) didn't do it reluctantly. They felt like it was something they were called to do."

Firefighters climbed Saturday in full turnout gear, including bunker pants, jacket, helmet and air pack - all of which weighed about 75 pounds - in memory of the 343 New York firefighters who died at the World Trade Center.

"There were about a dozen different fire departments at the climb... it was a brotherhood," Young said. "If you saw somebody stopped in the stairwell to catch their breath, you stopped and asked if they were alright, patted them on the back and encouraged them to keep going."

Young added that it was the first year his department participated in a memorial stair climb and several other members have said they want to go next year.

Members of the Paducah Fire Department will attend the Nashville 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb on Sunday at the William R. Snodgrass Tower on Rosa Parks Boulevard. The event is open to firefighters only.

"This is the eighth time (for PFD to participate), I believe," said Capt. Tim Kirkham. "Our tradition is to go to Nashville every year. We like it, and it's always a good event."

Entry fees for memorial stair climbs go to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, and all the money is earmarked for families directly affected by Sept. 11.

Kirkham and Lt. Caleb Dalbey have climbed all eight years the local department has gone to the Nashville event.

"We have a couple of first-timers this year and a total of eight firefighters that are climbing from our department, including our chief (Steve Kyle), which is kinda neat," Kirkham said. "It's always something that I mark on the calendar every year and look forward to participating in."

Kirkham said the event is almost like shadowing a FDNY firefighter on that day 18 years ago.

"You're actually climbing for a particular firefighter who died on 9/11," he said. "You're given a name badge that has their picture and their name... The best way to put it is that you're finishing something that they started.

"It's one of those experiences that you will always remember. It's just something that pulls at your heart."

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