Remembering 9/11 took on both physical and emotional roles for members of Mayfield Fire Department at a special event that symbolized the sacrificial effort of New York firefighters that tragic day 18 years ago.
The group of six local firefighters climbed the stairs of the Discovery Park of America observation tower in Union City, Tennessee, 10 times Saturday to remember and honor the 343 firefighters who lost their lives at the World Trade Center after both towers were struck by terrorist-commandeered airplanes and responders were attempting to rescue workers.
"Climbing stairs is kind of a beast all its own," said Mayfield Fire and Graves County Emergency Medical Service Chief Jeremy Creason. "You imagine climbing 110 flights of stairs and that's pretty tough. Then you throw on 80 pounds of gear."
With full gear, helmets and air packs, Mayfield firefighters joined 80 to 90 others from across Western Kentucky and West Tennessee for the event. Proceeds from the event went to support the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
Those who took part from MFD included Creason, Jonathan Lawson, Amanda Hughes, Justin O'Connor, George Cruz and David White.
"We finished fine, but it was definitely a test," he said. "It wasn't a race or a competition. It's kind of a somber event. When you finish, you come down and ring a bell just to memorialize those who lost their lives that day."
Creason was 20 years old on Sept. 11, 2001, and remembered watching the television news and the impact the attack had on the nation. Fast-forward to 2008 when he joined Mayfield Fire Department and it still weighed heavy on his fellow firefighters' and first responders' minds.
"For us, it's a somber date," he said. "(The FDNY firefighters) took off walking up that tower and I feel the majority of them had a feeling they might not make it down. But they still went ahead and did it. It's a tribute to the dedication of the profession, the dedication of those men, and it's something that affects every one of us.
"Someone told me, FDNY and Chicago Fire, they're elite. They're huge departments working in huge cities," Creason added. "But a 1,000-degree fire in New York is the same as a 1,000-degree fire in Mayfield. That's the bond we all share."
Creason said while Mayfield and Graves County may lack high-rise buildings, local first responders have their own dangers they face each and every day. But it's a job they still tackle in spite of those risks, spurred on by what the heroes of 9/11 did.
"It's a good reminder every year that every day is a blessing and you never know when you'll be asked to risk your life or give your life for someone in your community," he said.