9/11 Memorial Stair Climbs: Remembering and Honoring Fire Department Heroes

September 11, 2001, stands as the deadliest terrorist attack in recorded history, as 19 individuals commandeered four U.S. commercial airplanes, resulting in the tragic loss of 2,977 lives. Among the fallen, 343 were valiant members of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY).

Annually, across the United States, FDNY firefighters who courageously sacrificed their lives to save others on that fateful day are commemorated and celebrated through a series of memorial stair climb events. These events serve as a means to support the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF), dedicated to honoring and remembering America’s fallen firefighting heroes and providing assistance to their surviving loved ones. Additionally, the NFFF actively collaborates with the firefighting community to reduce firefighter fatalities and injuries. Funds raised also help defray the costs of sending families of fallen firefighters to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Memorial Weekend is the official national tribute to all firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty the previous year, and brings families together to honor their loved ones.

Memorial stair climb events take place in diverse venues, ranging from sports stadiums to government buildings to upscale high-rise condominiums. In each setting, participants pay tribute to a fallen FDNY firefighter by scaling the equivalent of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center. Every individual’s ascent serves as a symbolic completion of the heroic journey undertaken by a firefighter. Participants are given name badges bearing the name of a fallen firefighter and complete the climb in his or her memory.

This year, several FirstService companies sponsored, hosted and/or participated in Stair Climbs in Atlanta, Philadelphia and Austin.

The Atlanta Stair Climb was held at the Realm Condominium in Atlanta, GA. This is an annual event sponsored by Paul Davis and FirstService Residential, which also serves as the property manager of this iconic high-rise, with participants from both companies and The Amenity Collective.

Among the climbers was FirstService CEO Scott Patterson, who shared his experience, “I was honored to participate in the stair climb alongside dozens of FirstService subsidiary team members. It was very moving to see so many people turn out to pay tribute to the heroes whose lives were lost on 9/11. It was a very challenging climb for most of us, and we were all awestruck seeing local firefighters complete the climb in full gear, wearing helmets and heavy boots.”

Although the locations vary, each stair climb follows a similar format. Following the playing of the national anthem, a fire department chaplain leads the group in a prayer and moment of silence for the fallen. Then participants form a somber procession and follow a bag piper into the building to begin the climb. Upon completion of the climb, each participant rings a bell in honor of the fallen firefighter in whose memory they climbed.

Stair climb participants include people of all ages and from all walks of life along with fire professionals, many of whom wear their full gear.

The Philadelphia Stair Climb was held at the Wells Fargo Center. More than 40 Paul Davis and Planned Companies team members participated. This event raised more than $47,500 for the NFFF. 

For Rich Wilson, CEO of Paul Davis, the Memorial Stair Climb had special meaning. “Personally, September 11th has been a day of remembrance for me for the last 22 years. I lost both friends and family in the tragic event. So when Brian Diller asked me to participate in the 9/11 Stair Climb I was anxious to participate.

The turn out and engagement by Paul Davis team members, members of the community and firefighters was inspiring. It was an emotional experience for many of us. It is an event that I will continue to participate in annually and work to involve many others.”

In Austin, approximately 40 participants completed the climb which was held at The Austonian, a FirstService Residential-managed property. To complete all 110 flights, participants begin on the first floor, climb to the 55th floor then take the freight elevator down to the ground where they repeat the process.  Residents join in by donating snacks to the climbers and assembling on the 55th floor to cheer on the exhausted (and exhilarated!) climbers. Chief Facilities Engineer David Voelkel shared that this is the fourth year the team has partnered with Austin Fire, Austin EMS and the Department of Public Safety to host this event. Among the climbers was a couple to completed the climb with a small child in a backpack!



To learn more about the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, or to find a Stair Climb near you, please visit firehero.org.