KANSAS CITY, MO. — As the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks approached last week, three Great Bend firefighters paid tribute to the 343 firefighters who lost their lives. Dressed in full bunker gear, including air packs, they climbed 110 flights of stairs – representing the 110 flights of the Twin Towers.
Capt. Kevin Stansfield and firefighters Lucas McNally and Nick Maddy from the Great Bend Fire Department were joined by Davin Graves and his brother Darrell Graves, firefighters from Stafford and Newton, respectively. This central Kansas team joined others from seven states for the Kansas City 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, held on Sunday, Sept. 9. It’s one of 50 such memorial events staged around the nation.
Each of the 343 firefighters who died on 9/11 was represented by one person at the memorial climb. Stansfield was there for John Chipura, Engine 219; McNally for Michael Fiere of the Reserves; and Maddy climbed for Harvey Harrell, also of the Reserves.
“I wanted to give back to the ones that died that day, and do something special for them,” Maddy said.
“Americans should remember the day and keep memories alive of those who gave their lives,” Stansfield said. After McNally learned about the climb and the team was formed, the three trained by repeatedly climbing steps at Great Bend’s Memorial Stadium and the 12-story High Rise. But nothing compared to running up the 34 flights of Kansas City’s Town Pavilion three times, with eight more flights to bring the total to 110, in an hour and 38 minutes, by McNally’s watch.
Their gear weighs about 70 pounds, and it has a moisture barrier that caused them to get hotter and hotter as they sweated, McNally recalled. “It was pretty physical; it seems like you’re going at a snail’s pace.”
Even with plenty of water and no fire, the challenge was indeed taxing, Stansfield said. It helped him remember what firefighters may have faced in the Twin Towers.
Each time the team reached the top of the 34-story Town Pavilion, they rode an elevator down. On the fourth lap they climbed to the seventh story, returned to ground level and handed in the names of the firefighters they were climbing for. Each name was read, and as each participant climbed one last flight a bell was rung.
“It’s not about remembering how they died; it’s how they lived their lives,” Stansfield said. He’s read biographies of some of the fallen 9/11 firefighters, or the six firefighters who died in the Worcester (Mass.) Cold Storage Warehouse fire in 1999 and the nine who died in a Charleston, S.C., furniture warehouse fire in 2007. “They’re the same people that are on this department – any firefighter, any town.”
The event was also a fundraiser, with proceeds going to an organization that helps the families of fallen firefighters.