9-11 Memorial Stair Climb – We will never forget

IMPERIAL – At the chime of a bell, participants began the arduous ascending and descending of the Imperial Valley Expo grandstand’s flights of stairs Saturday evening in Imperial in memory of the 343 firefighters who perished helping people at New York’s Twin Towers sixteen years ago, September 11, 2001.
Firefighters, law enforcement officers, military personnel, emergency medical service personnel, civilians and their families altogether climbed the stairs according to their pace and capabilities. The stronger ones went past the slower ones, the children ran, parents with their little children took more time, and the others rested after a few flights. 
Participants climb and descend 110 stair flights Saturday evening to honor 343 firefighters who died on 9/11/2001 during the “9-11 Memorial Stair Climb” at Imperial Valley Expo Grandstands in Imperial. The 9-11 16th memorial anniversary was participated by firefighters, law enforcement officers, military personnel, emergency medical services and civilians.
Saturday, September 9, 2017
On display below the grandstand, at ground level, was a mural painting of the Statue of Liberty and images surrounding the New York terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. High above hung the U.S.A. flag, supported by two extended ladders from two fire engines. And on each side of the mural were four black rectangular panels —a total of eight— covered with photographs. From a distance, the structure looked like multiple buildings with photos as windows. 


These are photos of the 343 firefighters that lost their lives that day,” said Tiffinie Macias, business assistant at Imperial Valley Expo and volunteer for the 16th anniversary remembrance stair climb. “So, everybody gets a badge with a picture when they register for the climb. They can then go and find the person that they’re climbing for and read a little bit about them before they climb. It is more memorable.” 


Brawley firefighter Thomas San Roman was wearing his full gear uniform as he climbed the stairs. The primary gear, he said weighs about 60-lbs. “It is definitely tough but that’s what we train for. When we train, we wear full gear because that’s the way it’s gonna be out in the real world.”  


San Roman said he is walking up the equivalent of 110 stories firefighters did at the Twin Towers in New York. It will be 33 times up and down here. So far, he said, “I’m currently on 19 out of 33.”


While the stair climb is a memorial, it is also an opportunity to raise funds for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. The bespectacled Deborah Chastain took the top honors and was given three items: a “343” baseball cap, a backpack, and a medallion from the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. 


“I’ve raised over $1000 for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and I climbed 15 rounds upstairs,” said Chastain “For an old lady, I did really good,” smiled the athletic 55-year-old. 


One of the participants was a nurse who works for Pioneers Memorial Healthcare District in Brawley. Laura Green said, “I’m here to remember the fallen firefighters that lost their lives September 11. We can never do too much to remember those who gave us everything. I’ve gone through this eight times and will do as many as I can.” 


As the climbers tired, some rested and drank water. Only a few remained walking the grandstand stairs, still hoping to complete the maximum flights of stairs. Others, exchanged stories with friends over snacks of tacos and kettle corn purchased from food and beer vendors. An after party featured the Beta Maxx band that entertained the audience with songs from the 80’s. 


Brawley firefighter San Roman said of the 9-11 Memorial Stair Climb, “It’s been an awesome experience. I’m looking forward to next year.”