AUSTIN, Texas - Austin firefighters climbed about 110 flights of stairs Sunday to honor those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. This tradition started in Austin and continues 21 years later.
"We're just doing our part to fulfill the never forget," Austin Fire Lieutenant Jerry Cohen said.
Lt. Cohen was a cadet on September 11, 2001. The very next day, his class put on their gear, their air pack and hose, and climbed.
"We got as a group and just solemnly just went up silently up the stairs to equal the height of the World Trade Center," Lt. Cohen said.
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Twenty-one years later, the tradition continues.
"It's just our way of making the next generation never forget 9/11," Lt Cohen said.
In full turnout gear that can weigh between 40 and 80 pounds, and dog tags representing the firefighters who lost their lives running towards the smoke and fire, the firefighters climb about 110 flights of stairs to simulate the 110 floors of the World Trade Center Twin Towers.
The firefighters finish the climb for those who didn't.
"Being in the same profession, I do think we have a little more unique connection because we knew at least a little bit of what they were thinking going up, we couldn't have put ourselves exactly in their moment, but we knew the training that they did to get to that moment," Lt Cohen said.
On Sunday, a probationary firefighter who wasn't even alive during 9/11, climbed. "For the longest time we came here as kids, hand out drinks and stuff to all the people doing it, and just the past couple years I started climbing myself," Austin Fire Probationary Firefighter Mason Wade said.
Wade's father is a captain in the Austin Fire Department. "You're born into it for sure," Wade said.
Wade said they are all family, and it is important to remember the past.
"It's very important to represent that with respect and honor and what we're doing here is honoring those that sacrificed everything," Wade said.