Sept. 11

Climbing 110 Flights to Remember First Responders of 9-11

First responders navigate a stairwell at the Galleria parking lot, simulating the experiences of first responders in New York on Sept. 11, 2001. (Photo by: Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

About 75 persons – most of them first responders and military veterans – climbed 110 floors of stairs in the parking deck at the Riverchase Galleria Saturday to represent the experience first responders had climbing the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 21, 2001, on a mission to save lives.

It was the participatory portion of the 9/11 Climb to Remember memorial to the men and women who lost their lives in the events that befell the United States 20 years ago, including the hijacked planes that plowed into the towers of the World Trade Center.

Saturday’s stair climb encompassed 22 trips up five floors of stairs in the parking deck, recalling the 110-floors of the Trade Center towers. First responders climbed those stairwells as high as they could on Sept. 11 in an attempt to fight the fires or at least rescue people.

“It’s just the trip up,” Hoover Police Sgt. Steve Young said. “Obviously in the World Trade Center, it was 110 floors one way. You had to make this 22 times to make that one-way trip. Coming back down was just coming down to start whatever round you were on.”

Hoover’s Robb Williams, a construction company owner turned real estate agent, carried the American flag as he made his 22 round trips.

“I did it to make it a little tougher for me to climb those stairs,” he said, “and pay tribute to the men and women who sacrificed a lot more than I will ever.”

Several first responders made the climb wearing full gear, just like the men and women who scaled the towers two decades ago. Blake Bjornson was fully outfitted along with his fellow Trussville firefighters Garrett Allen and Spencer Sinewe.

At one point, Bjornson borrowed Williams’ flag.

“I just wanted to make one trip with it, just try to get in the front and take one flight with it,” the 24-year-old said. “I figured it’d be an honor to everybody. Just to honor the fallen.”

Williams admitted he had an added motivation.

“It was a bit of an adrenalin rush at the time,” he said.

The stair climb was part of Hoover’s memorial to the events of 20 years ago. The day began with a ceremony in the Galleria food court. Several dignitaries were on hand, including Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato, who wore the dress blue uniform from his days as a firefighter.

Roy Sexton, the director of corporate security for Alabama Power Co. , was the keynote speaker. The former Secret Service agent recalled his day 20 years ago when he handled the lead advance detail of President George W. Bush.

The 20-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was remembered with a stair climb at the Riverchase Galleria. Participants made 22 trips up and down five floors of stairs to replicate the 110 floors first responders climbed on that fateful day when hijacked planes slammed into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York. (Video by Solomon Crenshaw Jr.)

Other commemorative events include:

  • On Sunday, the 16th annual American Legion Riders 9-11 Commemorative Ride remembers the lives lost on Sept. 11, the wars that followed and the efforts of first responders. This event is Sunday at 9:30 a.m. It begins at B.W. Howell Post 171 and ends at SSG M.W. Hosey Post 205 in Clay-Trussville. The cost of participation is a $15 donation per rider and $5 per passenger.
  • A USA Softball Tournament was held Saturday at Hoover Central Softball Park with a ceremony honoring all heroes in attendance. Each hero was to be escorted by their player as his/her bio was read, and they were met by a USA staff member with a token of appreciation.
  • A Patriot Day Ceremony hosted by the city of Mountain Brook on Saturday. The event focus was “Remembering 20 Years.”
  • A 20th anniversary observance of 9/11 Saturday at Trussville Veterans’ Memorial Park. It was coordinated by the city of Trussville’s Veterans’ Committee and featured the Trussville Honor Guard.
  • Carry The Load partnered with the National Cemetery Administration — a Department of the Veterans Administration — to provide Americans with active ways to honor those who have served the country. A National Day of Service and Remembrance was held Friday to help beautify the sacred grounds of the Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo.
  • A 9/11 Day Community Service Project was conducted Saturday with the Addiction Prevention Coalition.
  • The Birmingham Barons were hosting a special event Saturday night as they play the Rocket City Trash Bandits. The Double A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox will have Armed Forces Night for a chance to bid on special military-themed jerseys. Proceeds benefit Alabama veterans.