AUBURN, Ala. (WRBL) – This weekend hundreds of first responders are gathering in New York City for the 5th annual New York City Memorial Stair Climb. The event honors first responders who died heroes trying to save others during the 9/11 attacks as well as the hundreds more who have been killed since that day due to 9/11 related illnesses.
The event has a special connection to Auburn because it was co-founded by a former Auburn Student Firefighter and Auburn University graduate, Chris Barber. Barber now works for the FDNY with John Mills. Mills’ father was killed in the attacks on 9/11/01, and the two men began the event in 2015 as a way of honoring victims and their families.
Attending this year from Auburn Fire is Tim Henry, Lt. Bart Rumsey, and Battalion Chief Josh Datnoff. A firefighter from Vestavia Hills FD, Trussville FD, and Washington D.C will also attend. The men began their fire service career at Auburn Fire Division while attending college along with Barber. The fighters will join nearly 400 more first responders in New York City to climb 80 floors of 3 World Trade Center.
Auburn Batallion Chief Josh Datnoff carries pictures of two fallen New York City Fire Fighters with him from previous memorial climbs. The honor tags are given to each participant in the New York City Memorial Stair Climb to take to the top.
“This is Hector Tirado Jr. He was a firefighter on Engine Company 23, and he was killed on 911,” explains Datnoff. “We are climbing for them. As you go up each floor, you will see four or five pictures of firefighters killed on 9/11. When you are climbing, and you think you can’t climb because your muscles are fatigued, you look up and see those pictures of Firemen that went up and unfortunately never came down.”
400 first responders will climb in full gear in memory of the 343 New York Firefighters, 37 Port Authority Police Officers and 23 New York Police officers killed on 9/11 as well as the hundreds of first responders who continue to die from 9/11 related illnesses.
Auburn firefighter Tim Henry will listen to the heartbreaking 9-11 dispatch calls during his second climb.
“I know it will never put me there, and I’ll never experience what they went through, but I get chills thinking about what they went through,” explained Henry.
Since 2015, the climb has raised $250,000 for a variety of 911 charities focused on helping first responders. The event has also forged a bond with first responders all over the world who gather each May to remember the fallen.
“It’s something that will be in our hearts, and we will carry that with us inside for the rest of our lives,” said Datnoff.