Firefighters from across the state are gathering in a special stair climb as a tribute and remembrance to the 343 firefighters that lost their lives in the line of duty on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Wisconsin 9-11 Memorial Stair Climb will take place on Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the U.S. Bank building at 777 E. Wisconsin Ave. in Milwaukee. Firefighters from Waukesha as well as many places around the state, totaling 169, will be participating. The firefighters will climb 110 stories, which is the equivalent of the Twin Towers in New York City.
Cody Brueggen, Brad Pellegrino and Dennis Graff from the Waukesha Fire Department will be participating in the event.
“It’s a tough physical event," said Brueggen, who promoted the event and organized the people in Waukesha’s Fire Department. "We’re going to be climbing 110 stories in full turnout gear just like you would if you were going into a fire.
"It’s going to be pretty grueling physically and it’s a small token to actually feel like what my firefighters went through that day. It’s small in the scheme of things that I could do to honor the dead, who gave their lives that day."
Head organizer and lieutenant with the Milwaukee Fire Department, Jordan Ponder, said that the event took much time and energy to plan.
“There have been an amount of people who have helped with this event," Ponder said. "Mike Underwood of Underwood Events, Deanna Singh of Baird Financial, Aaron Lipski Planning committee for ALA Stair Climb and Wendy Sky of US Bank are key individuals who understand our desire to honor those who passed and have donated their time to help us fulfill this."
The Memorial Stair Climbs originally started in 2005 with five firefighters in Denver.
“These firefighters began carrying the badge of one of the fallen to symbolically complete the climb they were never allowed to finish,” said Ponder.
The firefighters on Sunday will each be wearing the picture of one of the fallen firefighters, as well as gear. Ponder hopes that people take away the idea of “Never forget” with them from this event.
The event is not a race and there will be no winner. It is to simply recognize the sacrifice that the 343 firefighters made that day.
”This is the greatest American tragedy of our generation," Ponder said. "While there were many victims on that day, we as firefighters want to pay homage to those that gave all to save others. To forget their sacrifice would be an outright disgrace."
Proceeds, including registration fees and pledges raised by participants, will go to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, which, according to Ponder, is a nonprofit with “the sole purpose of honoring those that die in the line of duty” and was established in 1992 by Congress.