CHARLOTTE--Hundreds of emergency responders tackled 110 flights of stairs at the Wells Fargo Duke Energy Center Saturday for the second annual 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb. The event honored the 418 firefighters, police officers and medics who lost their lives during the September 11 attacks and the funds raised through the event benefit the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, as well as some local charities.
With his name and picture around her neck, Tracey Kirchhofer gets set to trek up 110 flights of stairs in memory of her uncle, a New York firefighter.
"He was off duty and the call went out and his whole shift got back on the rig and headed down and they never came back. And he left behind his wife, my aunt, and his two daughters,” said Kirchhofer, an enforcement supervisor with CMPD Animal Care and Control.
Ringing in the event and taking the first steps of the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb were members of FDNY.
"It was just like...it didn't even seem real. It was terrible,” said FDNY Battalion Chief Frank Poulin.
The symbolic event hits close to home, as they see these emergency responders wearing the pictures of fallen friends and coworkers.
"Four guys from my company and a lot of guys I knew died that day and the families that have lost their loved ones...this is why we want to remember,” said Poulin.
The event isn't a race, rather a challenge and a chance to reflect.
"If he could get out there and go into that building not knowing what he's facing, I can definitely get up and walk 110 flights of stairs,” said Kirchhofer.
For some, the reflection had been going on all week as they prepared for Saturday.
"I know if it were me, I'd be thinking I've got to get there, I've got to get there, those guys need me. So today is about that sense of brotherhood, that sense of fellowship, and just remembering everything those guys did that day for each other,” said Jeff Stevenson, a firefighter with the Charlotte Fire Department.
They said they're keeping this brotherhood alive, while remembering those who gave their life trying to save another.
"That's just a testament of what it is to be a fireman and a brotherhood and the camaraderie that we have, and Charlotte is the epitome of that, and it's great that they're continuing this,” said Poulin.
Last year, all of the stair climbs held across the country raised $15,000 dollars for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. That money was used to help save the counseling services for the Fire Department of New York.