September 21, 2013

9-11 Memorial Stair Climb

I am late in posting this recap, but two weeks ago I participated in an extraordinary event, the San Diego 9-11 Memorial Stair Climb.  It took place just days before September 11, and was a very poignant day.

I have been wanting to do a stair climb event for quite a while, but there just aren't any in San Diego, at least not that I've heard of or been able to find by searching online. I know other cities (New York, Chicago, etc) have stair climb races, but not here.  Coincidentally, about a month ago a friend on mine posted on Facebook about this event in San Diego, with a discount available on a deal through Living Social.  I bought it immediately, as not only was I excited about a stair climbing event to do, but the cause was great---it honored the victims of 9/11 and raised money for FireFighterAid. I roped one of my best friends, Amanda, into signing up with me.  Although I had a 5k the day before, I was looking forward to the challenge.

What was the challenge?  It was to climb 110 stories, which was the height of the World Trade Center.  We were to climb at the Hilton downtown, which was 30 stories tall.  The plan was for each climber to climb the steps 3 times (which would really total 90 stories).  I think the assumption was that the amount of steps it took to get from the exit of the elevator (we took the elevator down after each climb) back to the start would account for the other 20 stories.

the hotel

Amanda and I arrived early at the Hilton, in time to check in and get our t-shirts.  The event was untimed, so there were no timing chips.  And we didn't get bibs. Instead, each participant was given a lanyard with the name and picture of a fallen firefighter, police officer, or port authority officer who died on 9/11.  I was given the name of a firefighter, Stephen Stiller.  Seeing his name and picture made the whole thing very real for me. I realized that no matter how tired I got, I couldn't stop. I had to do the whole climb.  After all, it was the least I could do in Stephen's memory.

the hero I climbed for

this flag had every victim's name on it
a piece of one of the Towers

Before the climb started, there was a ceremony.  A choir sang the national anthem and God Bless America. Some other people spoke.  One of the most amazing speeches was by Lt. Joe Torrillo, a firefighter with an amazing story.  On 9/11, he was actually trapped under the rubble of Tower 1.  He was rescued, and then trapped under the rubble of Tower 2. As a survivor, he has made it his life's mission to travel the country, making sure the words "never forget" and its meaning lives on. They even had some metal, some part of one of the towers that had been transported to San Diego. By the end of the ceremony, I was in tears and feeling very patriotic. I am very proud to be an American.

a firefighter chopper made its way overhead

After this, it was time to get ready to climb!  They went by waves, so I had a while to wait.  The most impressive thing was watching the firemen get ready...they all did the climb in full gear, some with oxygen tanks on their backs.  Jut incredible.

suiting up

firemen about to start their climb

When it was our turn to climb, we first had to touch a piece of metal that was part of the Towers, and then ring a bell and say the name of the person we were walking in honor of.  Again, it hit me the enormity of what I was about to do, and helped me keep Stephen in my mind throughout the climb.

the bell we had to ring, and the piece of metal we had to touch

And then we started to climb!  Amanda and I entered a side stairwell, along with other people in our wave, and began climbing the steps.  There's not too much to write about here, except to say that the stairwell was hot.  It was hot and humid with the sweat of all the climbers.  Every ten flights or so would be volunteers passing out water bottles, which was much appreciated.  The climb was not too hard. To be honest, I was expecting it to be painful, but it wasn't.

At the top floor (30th), we got out of the stairwell and walked down a hallway of the hotel to the freight elevators.  We were then brought down by elevator and sent to walk around the side of the building to do it again!  The only thing noteworthy this time was that we passed an obese woman going up, who was clearly having a hard time. She was walking very, very slowly. The beautiful thing was that there was a firefighter right behind her, who stayed behind her during the entire event (I passed her again on the third round).  This time getting to the 30th floor brought little relief, as the line to get on the elevators was very backed up and we had to wait a long time in line. This part was the worst---I don't ever remember being so hot and sweaty in my life. We were all just dripping sweat.
oddly looking fresh as a daisy
As we began the third, and supposedly last, ascend up, Amanda and I decided that we would do it fourth time. We really wanted to climb an entire 110 flights, and the 90 just didn't feel right. So at the end, we went up a fourth time, making for a total of 120 flights of stairs climbed.

one of the views on the stairwell

At the end, neither of us were sore at all! I had packed my Stick to rub out our quads and calves if we needed to....but neither of us needed it. We left the event happy and full of patriotic pride. This is one event I really hope to do every single year from now on.

1 comment:

  1. Cool! There's an event like this in my area too, it's such a neat idea! Congrats on the stair climb! My heart is pounding thinking about just going up 2 flights of stairs, ha.


I love to read your comments!