“It’s important because it’s ... giving homage,’’ firefighter says of 9/11 tribute stair climb
More than 100 firefighters, including over a dozen each from Macon-Bibb County and Houston County fire departments, paid tribute Saturday to comrades who lost their lives in 9/11.
Nearly 3,000 people were killed in four coordinated terrorist attacks on the nation Sept. 11. 2001, including 343 New York City firefighters who answered the call to duty and went to the World Trade Center.
“These courageous first responders charged up 110 flights of stairs, which equated to 1,980 steps, in full turnout gear, without regard to their safety,” said Houston County firefighter Joe LeMaster, during a ceremony Saturday outside the Fickling & Co. building in downtown Macon. “Today, we are here, 18 years later, to remember those first responders by climbing these stairs in their honor.”
The firefighters came from across Middle Georgia and other parts of the state to participate in the Central Georgia Firefighters Stair Climb, said Lt. Shane Shifflett with Fire & Rescue Services at Robins Air Force Base.
Jason Gomesbrant, 44, a firefighter for Liberty County Fire Services, was among them. Gomesbrant said he climbed in honor of his good friend, Thomas Foley, 32, a New York City firefighter who perished in 9/11 at the Twin Towers.
“I think it’s important because it’s showing ... giving homage to them and putting them in the limelight for one day at least,” said Gomesbrant, a 27-year firefighter.
Firefighters climbed 16 stories, making the ascent in seven rotations to climb 112 flights of stairs, Shifflett said. Many of the firefighters wore lanyards that included a photo of a fallen comrade to symbolize carrying them up the stairs with them.
Some of the firefighters were in full turnout gear weighing nearly 100 pounds. Others wore casual clothing like T-shirts and shorts. Some of the firefighters’ children joined the climb as well. Boy Scouts from Troop 620 of Byron passed out water to climbers in the stairwell.
Stephanie Smith, 10, made the climb because, “I always do things with my dad,” and because the event was for charity. Her brother, Logan Smith, was among the Boy Scouts handing out water. Their father, Steven Smith, is a firefighter at Robins.
Cheryl Moore, of Warner Robins, isn’t a member of a fire department but read about the event on Facebook and through a friend who is a firefighter. Moore said she climbed “in memory and honor of those who sacrificed and gave their lives.”
The event, sponsored by the Central Georgia Firefighters Association, was held in April because of multiple honorary activities around Sept. 11. Having the climb in the spring offered an opportunity for increased participation, Shifflett said.
Opening ceremonies were marked by the presentation of colors, singing of the national anthem, the playing of bag pipes, prayer and a moment of silence. The Macon-Bibb Fire Department picked up a trophy for having the most firefighters, 19, participating in the event, edging out the Houston County Fire Department by one firefighter.
Proceeds from the event’s registration fees and from an upcoming Central Georgia Firefighters Ball in May at the Macon Marriott City Center will benefit Georgia Firefighters Burn Foundation’s Summer Camp Oo-U-La, which provides camp at no cost to burn injured children and their siblings, Shifflett said.