I enjoy a good workout. I especially enjoy one that carries some sort of meaning or significance with it. Almost every year, I participate in the Joey Cushman 5K, which benefits Special Olympics of Texas, to honor one of our fallen officers. I’ve climbed in the Heroes Memorial Climb in Dallas. So when a co-worker contacted me to try and put together a team to do the 2016 Dallas 9/11 Stair Climb, for the 15th anniversary, there was no way I was turning that down. With little time before registration, I was able to collect a few rookies to join me. Rookies are always ready and willing to join in, they have genuine gusto for anything police related. And they absolutely inspire me. It’s very hard to allow yourself to fail with their eyes on you…so I refuse to do so.
We gathered the morning of Sept 10th, 2016 at the Renaissance Tower in Dallas. The weather was on it’s own path, canceling the opening ceremonies. Still, we had enough of a break to gather out front on the streets of Dallas, for a group photo. And I was in awe. Representatives from Fire, Police and EMS filled the street, each climbing for one of the brave souls who died that day. Brothers and Sisters from all over, each wearing a name tag and a photo of the person they were climbing for. Spectators watched, cheered, waved and shook our hands as we filed in line towards the start. A piece of beam from the Twin Towers was touched by every person participating in the climb and the bag pipes lead us in. The bag pipes get me every time.
Piling into that stairwell, all of these bodies, everybody in full gear. I’m not gonna lie; it was hot and crowded. But the ID hanging from our necks and the name tag stuck to our uniforms represented a person who ran into an even hotter, even more crowded stairwell or building 15 years ago. Those heroes – covered in dust, dirt, sweat, blood – ran into ungodly conditions with absolutely no idea of whether they would exit. So we climb because they climbed. And we encouraged each other, pulled each other up and kept each other going. I can only imagine that each one of those brave souls did the same thing that day. Carrying people out, carrying each other out, cleaning people off and then going back in again. It truly is unreal.
We finished our climb after 110 stories, placing our name tag on the board. The name of the fallen was called and the bell was rung. We were done. We felt good for having done it. We felt tired. Our legs ached, we were drenched with sweat. We laughed and joked with those around us who were stripping off gear just like us.
I was wholeheartedly proud of the crew I was with as well as the strangers, who will always be my brothers and sisters, that joined us that day. I look forward to the climb next year and the year after that and so on. I will climb as long as my body allows it and even a little farther than that. I will climb because they climbed and I am still here to do so.
It’s the least any of us can do.