by Heather Worrell
The City of Black Hawk 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb was held this past Friday, September 11 at the Ameristar Casino Resort Spa to benefit the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF). The NFFF implements and maintains programs to support fire service survivors, including families and co-workers of the fallen firefighters from September 11, 2001.
First responders, several casino employees, city employees and the general public came to honor the memory of those who were lost. In the highest stair climb in the world, participants make four laps around the Ameristar hotel tower to climb a total of 116 floors, an estimated 3,500 total stairs. This exceeds the Word Trade Center’s total levels by six floors.
The halls of the stairwells are adorned with the photos and names of the 343 firefighters, 60 police officers, eight EMT’s and three state officers that died that day. The stair climb is a symbolic remembrance of the final heroic journey made by these first responders. “This event is not a race, rather a gathering to honor the fallen, help those who were affected on that day, and let the world know we will never forget” according to the Black Hawk Fire Department.
It is indeed an emotional and humbling experience to climb those floors and see the pictures of the first responders. Participants spoke about where they were on that day and shared it with each other. Reflecting upon the horror of the day and the fear it put into the hearts of many. People of all ages participated and paid homage to the victims together. If they didn’t share their experience, then they listened intently.
The Black Hawk 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb started in 2009 at the Ameristar with just a few members from the Gilpin Ambulance Authority and Black Hawk Fire Department who were looking to honor those that were lost. It is the highest stair climb in the world. The challenge begins at 8,042 feet above sea level with an elevation gain of 192 feet.
This year’s event was a great success and sponsored by the City of Black Hawk and hosted by the Ameristar. There are now many more participants, 124 total this year, coming from other fire departments, City personnel, casino staff, business staff, family and friends. The event is also supported by the Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control with the National Fire Academy Weekend. All proceeds raised from this September 11th, in the amount of $4,662, will go to the NFFF fund.
Ameristar Casino Resort Spa was thanked by the organizers for hosting the event. They were very accommodating to help with the venue, refreshments, volunteers and more.
To start each climbing wave, City Manager Jack Lewis welcomed everyone. This year he noted it was his 14th year of participation. Holding back tears he said, “I remember where I was at, I hope you do to. That’s the key to this whole event…to never forget.” It was noted that not all choose to commemorate this fateful day, however the members of fire service choose to remember the victims with the stair climb. A moment of silence was called to remember the fallen before each stair climb wave began.
Stair climb events were started in Denver in 2005 to honor the victims of 9/11 and to support the NFFF fund. The NFFF not only takes care of the surviving families and co-workers of fallen firefighters, but supports fallen firefighters and their communities nationwide. Fallen firefighters and first responders have given their lives for someone they didn’t even know. You can find out more at www.firehero.org.