BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Thousands of firefighters from around the East Coast are arriving in Baltimore for one of the largest public safety conferences in the nation.

Mike Schuh reports they were issued a serious challenge right from the start.

As the firefighters’ ceremonial pipe and drum band warms up, a daunting challenge has been issued which will take some convention-goers into the sky.

“Actually it’s going to be in the stairwell,” said Ron Sarnecki, Fallen Firefighters Foundation. “The firefighters are going to line up in the lobby of the hotel. They’ll come in here and climb the stairs up to the top floor then take the elevator down and then climb back up the stairs five times.”

That’s because the building is not 110 floors–110 stories, the height of the World Trade Centers.

“Everyone busting my chops today, my fiancée saying, ‘You’re how old? They’re 20,’” said Lt. Chuck Tucker, Odenton Volunteer Fire Department.

Even for those in their 20s, 110 stories is hard work.

“It’s definitely hard. About halfway up, it gets to you. But you have to think about your brother and sister you’re climbing for,” said Alex Wade.

The pictures of the 343 firefighters who died that day hang from the necks of all those making this journey.

“This is firefighter Thomas Beller from Ladder 13. I have a slightly more personal connection to this. He is the uncle of my best friend,” said Tommy Warshaw, Odenton volunteer firefighter.

Each climber paid $25 to do this, with the money going straight to the victims’ families. This struggle is a direct connection to those who died.

“Every time I think ‘This is too hard. I can’t do it,’ I have to think this is nothing compared to the hell they had to endure when they were going into the stairwells of the Trade Center,” Warshaw said.

“It’s the spirit of America, whether it’s the next door neighbor or the people we work with,” Sarnecki said.

The Fallen Firefighters Foundation says there are 36 such climbs this year across the country. This one will bring in $5,000-$7,000 for the families of those lost on 9/11.


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