Knoxville firefighters, first responders honor 9/11 victims with Sunsphere climb

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — There were 110 stories to the top of the World Trade Center.

For the fourth year in a row, Knoxville firefighters and first responders honored the New York firefighters, police and EMS who selflessly gave their lives so that others might live on September 11, 2001. Each participant paid tribute by climbing the equivalent stores of the World Trade Center at the Sunsphere.

Knoxville firefighters and first responders climb the stairs of the Sunsphere on September 11, 2017 (Mayor Rogero)

Firefighters said they hope their tribute not only remembers the sacrifice each brother made, but symbolically completes their heroic journey to save others. They hope that they can ensure that each of the 343 firefighters, 60 police officers and 10 EMS workers killed at the World Trade Center are honored and never forgotten.

“A difficult day, again. My heart sank when the buildings came down too. You identify with them because they’re part of your bother and sisterhood,” said Paul Trumpore, KFD Chaplain.

It all started with a ceremony, tolling of a bell followed by a moment of silence.

Then they started on those 110 flights, twice up and twice down the Sunsphere stairs.

With each step the men and women were thinking of those who did not survive by carrying ID badges with each victim’s name and picture.

“You hurt for all those families and of course we have some of those families right here,” Trumpore said.

They rang the bell as they completed the challenge and were greeted by someone who will forever be grateful for the sacrifices made on this day 16 years ago. Brenda Vandever’s brother, a Knoxville native, was killed on the 97th floor of the World Trade Center.

“I went upstairs and I watched, and I knew my brother was probably in an elevator and I knew that he would probably not be coming back and he didn’t,” she said.

This day and those awful memories are etched in her mind, but watching first responders pay their tributes eases the pain.

“I know that we’re keeping the memories alive and especially my brother’s name alive,” Vandever said. “Just to think that these guys and guys like them went up to try to rescue people just takes your breath away.”

The stair climb is also a fundraiser benefiting the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation which helps to create and maintain programs that support fire service survivors.

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