Lambeau stair climb continues 9/11 remembrance
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – Lambeau Field will be packed Saturday, Sept. 11.
Go Pack Go chants, however, will be replaced with silent remembrance, footsteps and the periodic ring of a bell – honoring the 343 firefighters who lost their lives at the World Trade Center on a day forever etched in U.S. history.
“The way the bell echoes through that bowl, it gets the hair on your neck standing up,” Dan Meyer, climb participant, organizer and Pierce Manufacturing director of strategic development and sales, said. “It is a pretty incredible moment. It is not the same going into Lambeau Field for the stair climb as it is for its traditional purpose of hosting football games. It is truly something when you hear that first bell echo.”
Like it has since 2013 – minus a 2020 lapse due to COVID-19 – Pierce Manufacturing will host the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.
The annual event pays tribute to firefighters who died at the World Trade Center, while also supporting the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF).
NFFF provides programs, support and counseling services to the families of fallen firefighters.
“When you do a 5K, most people are striving to complete it in their personal best time,” Meyer said. “Participants’ mindsets during the climb, however, are much different. It’s about taking part to honor someone who couldn’t complete it that day and supporting an organization that provides critical resources that continues to impact many lives.”
Climb Spokesperson Andrea Meyers said each participant pays tribute to a Fire Department of New York firefighter by climbing the equivalent of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center.
Climbs are done in waves – each consisting of 343 climbers signifying the 343 firefighters who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
She said so far this year there will be at least seven waves – with the first beginning at 9:30 a.m. – to include the more than 2,400 climbers already signed up.
Meyers said the event has already surpassed its fundraising goal of $120,000 – with current donations sitting at more than $132,800 – and she expects the number will rise.
Participants can still sign up online and on the day of the event.
Meyers said 100% of the proceeds go to the NFFF.
Organizers estimate this year’s climb to have the largest group of participants ever, and it could even be one of the largest climbs in the country this year.
Before entering Lambeau, each climber is given a badge with the name and picture of a fallen firefighter.
Each time a climber reaches the point equivalent to the 78th floor of the World Trade Center, which is the highest floor firefighters reached on 9/11, they ring the fire bell and yell their firefighter’s name in remembrance and honor.
“The atmosphere, you are not only seeing firefighters climb, but you are also seeing pilots, police officers and just a ton of people from the community giving their support,” Green Bay Metro Fire Department Lieutenant and long-time climber Shauna Walesh said. “The stair climb is really a unique event because it happens at Lambeau Field, but also you are seeing firefighters from all over the Midwest, not just the State of Wisconsin participating.”
Nikki McDaniel, a firefighter with the Boscobel Fire Department in southwest Wisconsin, said this year’s climb holds special meaning for her team.
Boscobel climbers will enter Lambeau Field honoring not just those who’ve died on 9/11, but also five members of the Boscobel fire family who died over the last year – including Josh Fedie, a nine-year veteran who passed away from COVID-19 in May.
“Josh always wanted to participate in the climb, but had never had the chance,” McDaniel said.“The department had ‘In Loving Memory of’ shirts made, and the team will wear them during the climb along with turnout gear.”
Meyer said climbers follow the day in chronological order with signs along the way noting when significant events occurred including: “9:03 a.m. Flight 175 crashes into the south tower” and “9:59 a.m. collapse of the south tower.”
Along with the signs are plaques aimed to inspire: “I climbed because they climbed” and “Remembrance with every step.”
He said it serves as an educational opportunity, particularly for those who were not yet alive or old enough to remember what took place two decades ago.
Meyer and his wife Aimie will participate in this year’s event with their three children, ages 6, 5 and 2.
“What I’m most excited about for this year’s 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb is that my kids are old enough to understand it,” he said. “On the back of my work ID, I wear the badge of the fallen firefighter I climbed for that year, and my kids always ask me about it. We look up that firefighter’s story together. Not only is it a good way to honor that firefighter, but it also shows my kids who their dad gets to serve every day.”
Walesh stressed the importance of events aimed at remembrance two decades later.
“9/11 was a huge day in American history and one that rocked the world,” she said. “With how many firefighters who passed away that day, and also firefighters and police officers as well who have passed away in years since due to cancer from being at ground zero – it is an event that marks history. And to be part of that history and also just help raise money and awareness of NFFF, too, that is really what it is all about.”