Hot Corner: 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb held at Lambeau
By Rich Palzewic
GREEN BAY – As I sit and write this, I am still sore a few days after completing the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb at Lambeau Field with hundreds of others Sept. 7.
The stair climb, the largest of its kind in the country, attracted about 2,000 adventure-seeking souls looking to pay tribute to the 343 New York Fire Department (NYFD) firefighters who gave their lives during the tragic events at the World Trade Center (WTC) on Sept. 11, 2001.
In all, over 3,000 people lost their lives that day in the terrorist attacks.
Each participant paid tribute to an NYFD firefighter by climbing the equivalent of the 110 stories inside Lambeau – the height of the fallen WTC towers.
Each climber was also given a badge with the name and photograph of one of the fallen firefighters to symbolically complete the climb with.
At the equivalent of the 78th floor of the WTC towers, which is the highest floor firefighters reached on Sept. 11, each climber got to ring the fire bell in honor of the fallen firefighter on their badge
My firefighter was named Gary P. Geidel.
Curious to know more about him, an online search had me reading his obituary.
In his 19 years at the fire department, Geidel received seven citations for valor – none of which his wife knew about.
In other words, he was a humble man who kept his career at the fire department and didn’t bring it home to his family.
At 44, Geidel was a couple of weeks shy of 20 years in the department, so he worked overtime on Sept. 11 to build his pension.
The obituary mentioned Geidel was looking forward to buying a white farmhouse on three acres of land in upstate New York upon retirement.
I got emotional reading about him.
Up and down the stairs of Lambeau I went.
About one-third of the way through, I could feel my quads, feet and legs getting sore.
Ironically, it was more painful for me going down the steps than up.
Even though I knew I was going to be terribly sore for days after the climb, I trudged on and completed my journey with a friend and my brother-in-law about 1 hour and 10 minutes after beginning.
It’s a somber event but also very satisfying – I had a great sense of accomplishment upon completion.
You won’t see many people making a scene or dressed in fancy costumes.
You will see hundreds of firefighters from around the country doing the climb in full gear.
According to my brother-in-law, Brian White from Stephenson, Michigan, It would be 40-60 pounds of added weight.
White has done all but one of the seven Lambeau stair climbs.
“The cool thing about the fire service is the camaraderie with others from around the country,” said White, who was the fire chief at the Stephenson Volunteer Fire Department for six years and currently works in Iron Mountain, Michigan, as a firefighter. “For me, I do the climb out of respect for those lost – I don’t want to forget the sacrifice they made and the events of Sept. 11, 2001. I’ve also been to the WTC Memorial in New York City – it was very emotional.”
White, who did the climb in full gear, has also done two memorial stair climbs in Indianapolis and one in Wausau.
If you’re old enough to remember, everyone has a story about 9/11.
I was a 29-year-old school teacher of the sixth grade in Rhinelander, Wisconsin,
I remember walking down to the school office in the morning before classes began and seeing a bunch of teachers huddled around a television in the library watching the events – I was shocked.
For the rest of the day, understandably so, my students and I watched the timeline of the tragedy unfold – it’s a day I won’t ever forget.
White, who is also a plumber by trade, was working a job at a house on 9/11.
“The guy wasn’t home, so I turned on the television in his house, and I ended up sitting in his apartment for an hour watching everything,” White said. “I saw the second plane hit and saw the second tower collapse. My first thought was, ‘All those guys are still in there.’”
Take a moment to remember those who perished on Sept. 11, 2001, and consider doing the stair climb next year to honor the fallen – the soreness you will experience will be well worth the effort.