At approximately 8:46 a.m. on the morning of September 10, 2016, local firefighters, law enforcement officers and EMS will climb 110 floors wearing full gear at 400 Poydras Tower, to pay tribute to the fallen heroes of the catastrophic 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“This is the 15th anniversary of 9/11 and the first year it is a sanctioned event in New Orleans,” said Neil Navarro, event director of the New Orleans 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb and a Jefferson Parish firefighter for the past seven years. “Everyone will climb with appropriate gear. This is not a race, but a way to remember that day which is etched in our hearts so that we can never forget.”
Local and statewide firefighters, police officers, EMS and civilians will join together in a spirit of remembrance and courage to honor the memories of the 343 firefighters, 70 law enforcement officers and nine emergency responders who were among those who perished in the attacks and the collapse of the towers 15 years ago. The Memorial Stair Climb will begin with an opening ceremony with bag pipers and drummers. Each climber will be wearing the name of a fallen firefighter or emergency responder whose life was taken on that dark day. “We climb in their memory,” said Navarro. “We need to come together, because when that buzzer goes off and you get the call, it doesn’t matter what race, religion or gender you are.”
As the guest of honor for the Memorial Stair Climb, Chris Mandeville, a retired New York firefighter who served in the aftermath of 9/11, will be on site at the event. He will be distributing lanyards, which contain a picture and the badge of a fallen firefighter, to each participant. Mandeville was a member of the Rescue Squad #1 who helped in the rescue and recovery efforts following the collapse of New York’s World Trade Center. More than 300 firefighters died in the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil, including a few of Mandeville’s friends and colleagues.
“I had over 20 personal friends lost in 9/11,” said Mandeville, as he described that day of activity. “I was working Ladder 40, left early from the firehouse, and heard that the first plane had hit, then the second plane hit and both towers fell down. I ran back to the firehouse. All the equipment was buried under debris, concrete and rubble. Huge crowds were rushing around and hundreds of our guys were covered in dust. Within hours, I was covered, while trying to sift through stuff to find people.”
It was a sorrowful day for Mandeville who spent months moving debris and searching for survivors. “It was an intricate recovery,” Mandeville said. “The command structure was destroyed and communication lost. It took three to four hours to move debris-- very labor-intensive. As time went on, you had a feeling that the odds of finding people alive were bad, and after two weeks of searching, they had already expired before you could get to them.”
Although time has passed, the reminder of the sacrifice, dedication and commitment of our fallen first responders continues to live on with such fundraising events as the first annual New Orleans 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb. Everyone is invited to attend and cheer on their fellow officer, EMS or fireman. After the climb, a parade of fire trucks and a second line celebration will proceed down Poydras Street to a party, called the "Brotherhood Bash", at Barcadia on Tchoupitoulas Street. Budweiser is sponsoring Flow Tribe as the rock band to play from 1 to 4 p.m. Registration is open to active firefighters, law enforcement officers and EMS.
Also, specialty event t-shirts for the spectators will be sold at the Memorial Stair Climb. Kathleen McCall, Owner of NOLA Til Ya Die, LLC, stated, “I’m designing the event t-shirt for people to purchase to show their support of the stair climb and for the climbers. The phrase ‘Remember till Ya Die’ says it all. But the numbers underneath it make it unique to 9/11.”
Navarro also mentioned that the majority of the funds collected will be allocated for distribution to local and statewide families of these first responders. “This is a BIG year, the 15th anniversary year” said Navarro. “We want everyone to come together and see this. This is another reminder that we are all ONE and we need to break down those lines.”
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