Around 8am local time on Tuesday, September 11, 2001, Austin Fire Department Cadet Class #106 had just finished a strenuous morning workout routine that typically starts the day when a training class is in session at the Austin Fire Department Training Academy. As the Cadets exited the locker room, freshly showered and dressed for long day of classroom work, they were ordered to line up for an announcement. It was at that moment that they were alerted to fact that a couple of planes had purposely crashed into the Twin Towers in NYC and that it appeared the country was under attack. The topic of the day was one of the most important of the curriculum, fire streams, so after a few minutes of discussion of the unfolding events a full day of classwork on hose, nozzles, and proper fire stream techniques began. An hour or two later, the door to the classroom opened and everyone was alerted to the attack on the Pentagon. Back to hose streams. Lunch break. The only time during the entire six month fire academy the TV was turned on and the Cadets and Training Instructors watched all of the morning events, including the collapse of the Towers. It was at that time that the knowledgeable Instructors informed the cadet firefighters to prepare to expect to hear that hundreds of firefighters were killed. Unfortunately, their predictions were correct. Back to fire streams. Then the door opened and they were informed of the crash in Pennsylvania. Back to fire streams. 5PM, dismissal.
0700 on Wednesday, September 12, 2001. Back on the line for the morning workout. This workout would be different. The Lieutenant Instructor ordered each Cadet to grab full turnout gear, breathing apparatus, and hose bundle and meet at the bottom of the nine-story drill tower. He asked the 35 Cadets how tall the Towers were. Like most most questions asked of the group, the response was a yell in unison of “108 FLOORS, SIR!”. The Instructor went on to give the instructions to “finish the climb”. The AFD Cadets were to climb the drill tower, as a team, staying together, and in complete silence as many flights to equal the height of the Towers. The order was to think about the previous day’s events and to fight through the pain and exhaustion of carrying the 60 plus total pounds of gear to roughly equal the height of the Towers. Always keeping in mind that the 343 firefighters killed that day knew their fate and to honor their sacrifice. The group was ordered to pace themselves so that everyone completed the climb together as a team.
That was first Austin Fire Department 9/11 Memorial Climb at 0700AM on September 12, 2001.
On the 1st anniversary of 9/11, a group of those Cadets and the Instructor decided to do another Memorial Climb to honor the sacrifices of the 343 FDNY firefighter killed that day. Every year since then, the Austin Fire Department has held a 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb where firefighters dress in full turnout gear, breathing apparatus, and hose bundle to finish the climb. September 11, 2014 will be the 14th Memorial Climb.