Woodward, Okla. —
110 flights of stairs. 55 pounds of gear. 9 Woodward firefighters. And 1 call that changed everything.
This is a story of how a crew of firefighters from Northwest Oklahoma has come to forever carry the memory of the New York City firefighters who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
TAKING ON THE CHALLENGE
Woodward firefighters first learned of the 2013 OKC 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb earlier this summer after receiving an e-mail from the OSU Fire Training Facility.
The e-mail said that the Stair Climb organizers were looking for 343 firefighters from across the state who would be willing to climb 110 flights of stairs in honor of the 343 New York City firefighters who died in the 9/11 terrorist attack.
The Oklahoma firefighters would carry the names of the fallen FDNY firefighters on name tags around their necks as they climbed the 110 stories, which represents the height of the Twin Towers that collapsed after being struck by jets during the attack.
The climb was held on Saturday, Sept. 7 at the First National Center in downtown Oklahoma City.
Upon learning of the memorial event, several Woodward firefighters were eager to participate. They thought of it as a physical challenge.
"It became kind of a goal for us, at least for our shift," Firefighter Steven Rogers said.
The reason it became so important for him and his fellows on A Shift, Rogers said, was because of their lieutenant.
Lt. Steve Smith has been battling cancer for several years after being diagnosed with colon cancer in 2006 and liver cancer in 2009. He continues to receive chemotherapy treatment and even rescheduled his last chemo treatment to take it a day early so he could participate in the OKC Stair Climb on Saturday.
Smith said he wanted to participate in the Stair Climb "to show that I could do it."
By taking on the 110-story climb and completing it, Smith said, "It just gave me the feeling I can accomplish what I set my mind to; that nothing can stop me, I just got to keep fighting."
To show support for their lieutenant the other members of A Shift, including Bobby McDowell, Cody Foster and Ryan Johannesmeyer as well as Rogers, also signed up to participate in the climb as well.
"Steve was definitely our inspiration," Rogers said.
They were soon joined by members from other shifts including David Conner, Darren Eckels, Jordan Ivie and Sterling Parks.
The 9 firefighters then spent weeks training for the climb.
Rogers said they would wear weighted vests or even wear their SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) packs as they trained to help prepare for the approximately 55 pounds of bunker gear they would be wearing during the climb.
"We wore out that old stair climber in our gym," McDowell said.