Three local firefighters completed the Nashville 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb in honor of the firefighters that perished in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

City of Athens Fire Department (AFD) firefighters Tyler Evans, Chad Ramsey, and Captain Tim Schultz climbed 110 stories in the William R. Snodgrass Tennessee Tower this weekend to benefit the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

It costs each participant $30 to register and 100 percent of the proceeds benefit the foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which is dedicated to assisting fallen firefighters’ families in need.

Because 343 firefighters lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, 343 firefighters were allowed to participate in the tribute — one climbing in honor of a specific firefighter who lost their life.

Evans, Ramsey, and Schultz each picked the individual they climbed in honor of prior to the event. Evans, the youngest firefighter of the three, was the one who initially approached his fellow AFD firefighters about participating in the climb. He represented Robert Evans. Ramsey participated in honor of John McAvoy and Schultz climbed representing Assistant Chief Donald Burns.

Schultz, Ramsey, and Evans noted that they climbed the tower in full suits and gear —approximately 75 pounds — but each man was determined to finish the climb for the men they represented. Along with their gear, all participants were also required to climb with a badge on that had a picture of their firefighter’s face.

The three AFD firefighters registered in July, and immediately began physically training to prepare for the feat. They each had to climb the Tennessee Tower four times, 28 floors at a time, to equal the 110 stories of one Twin Tower.

Each man expressed that this challenge gave them an expanded perspective on Sept. 11.

“We all agreed. It really puts it in perspective — of how big of a structure you’re really dealing with when you’re climbing that many floors. It’s extremely exhausting, but it was an honor to be able to finish what these men started,” said Ramsey. “These men never made it to the very top floor of the towers and we were able to finish that in honor of them.”

“It’s finishing the climb for them — in their honors, that’s what it comes down to,” said Schultz, who has been a firefighter for almost 30 years.

“It really puts it in perspective, as Chad said, because I was working for the fire department when 9/11 took place. Being the older guy in the group, it was obviously physically challenging, but I think it was equally as mentally challenging,” Schultz continued. “I thought I was in great shape for my age, but about halfway through the event, I started second guessing myself. From that point, it went more mental to me to push myself to finish.”

Evans, Schultz, and Ramsey all agreed that the men they climbed in honor of inspired them to not give up.

“This definitely takes a toll on you physically, and then mentally. The thing that I kept in mind to keep me motivated as far as physically — you have to keep in mind this guys did not make it out of that, and you’re doing this to finish what they started,” Ramsey explained. “Mentally, the thing that would drive me was … these guys climbed these towers with a good idea that they were not coming home. Whereas, it’ll push you to know that you’re going to finish this and you’re doing a great honor to them.”

The men commented that on every turn of the climb in the building, there was a picture posted of a perished firefighter’s face to keep participants motivated. Radio traffic from Sept. 11 was also incorporated throughout the stairwells that echoed throughout the building as they climbed.

Each of the men remarked that those they climbed for were heroes.

“Halfway through the climb, you start getting exhausted. I did, myself, and you start looking down at your badge clipped onto your gear and you remind yourself that you’re doing this for somebody that wasn’t able to finish, and they didn’t get to go home at the end of the day,” said Evans.

“It puts it in much more perspective, knowing what these guys went through and I can’t imagine the physically demanding that they had to go through, not to mention to go up there and start rescuing people and perhaps start fighting fire. It was just a task at hand to just complete this,” said Schultz.

“That’s what makes these individuals, the 343, so amazing, because they knew while doing this physically tasking demanding thing of climbing all these stories … that more than likely they were not coming back. They were never going to go home again, but yet, they still continued to go up and never look back. It’s hard to imagine putting yourself in the same shoes and doing that,” said Ramsey.

Schultz, Ramsey, and Evans are planning on participating in the Nashville 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb again next year, if possible, although the registration fills up quickly with applicants statewide. Next year, according to AFD, they hope to do more fundraising for the event.

AFD Chief Brandon Ainsworth commented on the dedication of the firefighters who participated, as well as former Chief Jim Dyer and the City of Athens for their support.

“Ultimately, it shows how dedicated they are to the business. It took a lot of hard work. I find it to be a huge accomplishment that those guys pushed theirselves to achieve this and complete it,” said Ainsworth. “I’ll give the credit where it’s due — our recent chief, Jim Dyer, he actually paid their entry fees out of his pocket for them to participate in this and the City of Athens paid to put them in a room in Nashville.”

This year marked the ninth annual Nashville 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb to benefit the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

Ben West, a climb coordinator for the Nashville 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, commented that each year about $15,000 to $20,000 is donated from the event to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

“On behalf of the National Stair Climb for Fallen Firefighters and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, we appreciate the sacrifice that these guys make for this, mentally and physically. Many of them get their families involved and that’s what we want. We don’t want the memory of those who perished to fade. They embody the never forget mantra,” said West.

For more information, or to make a donation for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, visit their website online at https://www.firehero.org

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