DENVER (CBS4) – Firefighters from across Colorado and six other states came to Denver for a special 9/11 memorial event.
The Denver 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb began in 2005 when a handful of firefighters from the Denver and Castle Rock fire departments wanted to pay tribute to the firefighters killed on Sept. 11, 2001. Now 343 firefighters from multiple agencies take part, one firefighter for every New York Fire Department member killed in the Twin Towers.
“Fifteen years in and it’s still an amazing tribute,” said Oren Bersagel-Briese, Castle Rock firefighter and event organizer. “We hear from the FDNY families about how much it means to them that we continue to remember.”
Wearing all their heavy gear, firefighters climb the 54-story building at 1801 California in downtown Denver twice. It mimics the 110 stories of the World Trade Center towers.
“Each firefighter carries the picture and the name of one of the FDNY members that were killed, so we can complete the journey that they were not able to complete that day,” Bersagel-Briese told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann.
Denver firefighter Kristyn Gothard said she has participated in the stair climb for as long as she’s been with the department. This is her sixth year taking part and she said she is just as motivated to make sure the 343 firefighters killed are never forgotten.
“When I take each step, I think about the guy I have,” Gothard said pointing to her new card with the late FDNY firefighter and those she’s received in events past. “You just think about their family, what they’re going through not having them with them, and maybe what he went through.”
Several first responders made the ultimate sacrifice on that horrific day in New York. Organizers of the Denver Stair Climb said events like theirs are to make sure their memory lives on.
“That they were able to decide that they were going to risk their lives, and maybe lose their lives, to save thousands of other people keeps us going all the time,” Bersagel-Briese said. “It’s our responsibility to carry on their memory.”
The Denver 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb was the first of its kind when it started in 2005. Dozens of similar events now take place across the country. Denver’s climb raises money for the Fallen Firefighters Foundation and the families of victims of 9/11. To date, the event has raised upwards of $1.4 million.
For more information on the Denver 9/11 Stair Climb, visit denverstairclimb.com.
Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team in 2012 as the morning reporter, covering national stories like the Aurora Theater Shooting and devastating Colorado wildfires. She now anchors CBS4 Weekend Morning News and reports during the week. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @KellyCBS4.