For the second year Flagler County and the Hammock Beach Golf Resort and Spa came together to host a “Memorial Stair Climb” in honor of the 343 New York City Fire Department (FDNY) firefighters who heroically gave their lives trying save others when they rushed into the World Trade Center 21 years ago.
Most participants ascended the 11-flight stairwell at the resort 10 times to represent the 110 flights of stairs at the World Trade Center. Tim MacDowall – one of 60 participants and a former Long Island resident – made the climb 20 times to ensure he recognized the loss of life at both the North and South towers.
“I lost friends in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center,” he told Digital Media and Events Coordinator Lacy Martin, who organized the event along with Fire Rescue Flight Medic Andy Thomas. “I wanted to participate to honor them.”
Most firefighters who made the climb wore full turnout gear. Climbers began their first ascent promptly at 8:46 a.m. – the moment American Airlines Flight 11 was flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center complex in Lower Manhattan (17 minutes later at 9:03 a.m., the South Tower was hit by United Airlines Flight 175).
As with the inaugural event, Daytona Beach Firefighter Mike Gocke provided 343 poker chips – each with the face of one of the fallen firefighters who worked their last shift on September 11, 2001 – that were carried by participants each step of the way for a collective 134,200 steps (MacDowall did the climb twice). They were used to cover the American Flag at the end of Sunday’s event.
Firefighters from Palm Coast, Daytona Beach, and Daytona Beach Shores joined Flagler County Fire Rescue made up the majority of the 60 climbers, more than triple the 18 participants from the inaugural event. Climbers also included seven students of the Flagler Palm Coast Fire Leadership program: (listed alphabetically) Nicholas Lilavois, Kevin Ramos, Zackary Silva, Thomas Sturman, Zachary Warner, Andrew Wheeler, and Allan Willis.
“I’m so proud of these future firefighters who chose honor men and women who gave their lives before they were born,” said Flagler County Fire Chief Michael Tucker, who made the climb with his wife Dale (She completed the climb first.). “They understand the commitment it takes to rush into a situation like this to save the lives of others without a thought for yourself.”
Some 100 spectators were provided with an American flag to cheer on the climbers.
Flagler County’s FireFlight helicopter did a flyover with its American Flag for the Pledge of Allegiance, piloted by Todd Whaley, and afterwards landed on the golf course next to the TraumaOne helicopter out of St. Augustine that came in a show of support. Fire Rescue Flight Operations Chief Dana Morris participated in the climb.
“I really wanted to be part of this wonderful memorial that Flagler County organized,” Morris said. “My flight medic, Andy Thomas, and Lacy Martin worked really hard on this tribute to the 343 fallen New York firefighters.”
Hammock Beach Golf Resort and Spa provided beverages and lunch for the firefighters and other climbers.