BY MIKE WARREN
GREEN BAY – Hundreds of people from across the state and the nation converged on Lambeau Field in Green Bay on Sept. 9, for the 11th annual 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.
Hosted annually by Pierce Manufacturing, the event remembers America’s fallen fire heroes, and all proceeds go to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation to provide resources to assist their survivors, as well as efforts within the fire service community to reduce firefighter deaths.
For participants, the reasons they take part are many.
“Just because we want to remember and never forget 9/11,” said Liz Armagost of the Vesper Volunteer Fire Department, shortly after she and two colleagues completed the stair climb course, which is the equivalent of 110 stories — the height of the fallen World Trade Center towers — on the steps of Lambeau Field. “As a department, coming to this means a lot to us.”
Armagost is a 12-year veteran of the fire department in Vesper, located near the center of Wood County.
This marked the fifth year Armagost completed the Lambeau stair climb.
She was joined by five-year department veteran Delaney Weiler, who was completing her third stair climb, and third-year firefighter Willow Eastling, who was coming off her second stair climb.
Eastling was a kindergarten student on 9/11.
“I do it because it’s an awesome charity, first of all,” said Eastling. “Second of all, it’s just very humbling to remember and to really be aware of what happened on 9/11 in this country. It’s a huge deal. Even though I was in Kindergarten, I still remember when that day happened, so I think it’s important that we keep it alive and we remember it,” Eastling added.
Weiler was not yet born on 9/11, but she tries to find meaning through old news footage.
“They start the ceremony with news clips, and just hearing that gives me goose bumps,” Weiler said. “I can’t even imagine being in that situation. And I know, being my job and being a paramedic, if I were that paramedic on that day, I can’t even imagine what that must’ve been like and what that must’ve felt like, and so I really want to remember those people, even though I wasn’t alive when that happened, I still want to remember those people,” added Weiler, who works full-time as a paramedic for Lifestar Ambulance of Adams County.
The stair climb starts and finishes on the northwest end of the stadium and encompasses one full lap of the Lambeau Field steps.
Climb start times are implemented in waves, beginning at 9 a.m.
Waves are filled on a first-come first-served basis and are assigned by Pierce Manufacturing based on registration date and time.
Each wave consists of 343 climbers, a tribute to the 343 firefighters who gave their lives during the tragic events at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
Each climber is given a badge with the name and photograph of one of the fallen firefighters to symbolically complete the climb on their behalf.
At the equivalent of the 78th floor of the World Trade Center towers, which is the highest floor firefighters reached on 9/11, each climber rings a fire bell in honor of the fallen firefighter on their badge.
The stair climb is not a timed race and participants can climb to any desired level.
Depending on the number of climbers and the fitness level of each climber, the climb takes anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours to complete.
Eastling, Weiler and Armagost did it in less than an hour, a new record for the trio.
Another number the group hopes to improve upon is within their ranks.
“We’re always short volunteers,” said Eastling, who also serves as the Vesper department’s treasurer. “It is really important to give back to your community. If you have any sense of wanting to give back and do a little bit more than your everyday, Vesper and all the small towns — especially rural communities — are always looking for extra volunteers,” Eastling added. “Personally, I grew up in Vesper. I was born in Vesper. I came back to the community and I was really unsure of myself. I’m so glad that I did it, but being from a small town I didn’t really consider it until later in my life, so it’s never too late.”
“And just having that sense of being a part of something bigger than yourself, like you want to help others and show compassion for people; so, it’s great to be a part of a community like that,” Armagost said.