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110 floors: Dickinson firefighters, fellow first responders climb to honor 9/11 victims

On Saturday, Dickinson firefighters suited up in full gear, paying tribute to the 343 firefighters that perished in the Twin Towers after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Along with community members coming out, police officers and fellow first responders from across the state participated in this weekend’s 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.

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Side by side, Dickinson's Fire Chief Jeremy Presnell, right, and Police Chief Dustin Dassinger lead their teams of firefighters and police officers at the start of the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2001, at the Biesiot Activities Center in Dickinson. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)
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With a serenading bagpiper, the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb kicked off on Saturday with more than 150 participants — several of which were from the Dickinson Fire and Police departments as well as many from other emergency departments across the state.

Many firefighters suited up in full gear while others wore their blue uniforms or gym attire, climbing the equivalent of 110 stories at the Biesiot Activities Center — the same distance that 343 firefighters did in attempts to rescue those trapped in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, after two planes crashed into the buildings.

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Dickinson firefighter Jared Rhode glances over at his fellow firefighters, who are also dressed in full gear and walking 110 flights of stairs in honor of those who died on 9/11, during a stair climb on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021 at the Biesiot Activities Center in Dickinson. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)

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Dickinson Police Senior Officer Chad Hopponen, left, chats with recruit Seth Main from the Dickinson Fire Department as they participate in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, at the Biesiot Activities Center in Dickinson. (Jackie Jahfetson / The Dickinson Press)

Dickinson Fire Chief Jeremy Presnell, along with Police Chief Dustin Dassinger, led the first climb at 9 a.m. But it was a true test of physical and mental strength for even the toughest first responders.

“Honestly, it’s exhausting,” Presnell joked. “But it feels really good to come out here and pay tribute to those brave firefighters, police officers, EMS workers that gave their lives for 9/11 and all of the civilians as well.”

Hosted by the Dickinson City Fire Auxiliary , the event featured remarks from Dr. Analena Lunde, who was a flight nurse and medic in response to the Department of Defense on that fateful day two decades ago. Lt. Ernie Theetge of the Williston Fire Department also came down to play bagpipes throughout the climb.

Some participants climbed and others walked around the track.

“It’s really exciting (and) it’s great to see, specifically here in Dickinson, how our community and first responders come together here in North Dakota,” Presnell said. “We have departments out here from all over North Dakota participating in this climb. Just the showing from the community has been amazing.”

Across the nation, communities came together for the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, including the four DFD firefighters who were deployed down in Baton Rouge, La., on Sept. 4 to help residents recover from the devastation of Hurricane Ida. While taking a break from assigned duties, Deputy Fire Chief Mark Selle, senior firefighter Alaynea Decker, firefighters Hunter Flynn and Mason Geiger climbed 110 flights of stairs with two other firefighters from the Schriever Fire Department at its training tower.

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From left, Schriever Fire Department Capt. Kade Dupre, Dickinson Deputy Fire Chief Mark Selle, Dickinson firefighters Hunter Flynn and Mason Geiger and Schriever Fire Department Chief Chris Burgeois hold an American flag after climbing 110 flights of stairs on Saturday., Sept. 11, 2021, in the Schriever Fire Department training tower, approximately 80 miles south of Baton Rouge. Four firefighters from the Dickinson Fire Department were deployed to Baton Rouge, La., on Sept. 4, to help residents recover from the devastation of Hurricane Ida. (Contributed / Hunter Flynn)

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Dickinson firefighters that are deployed down in Louisiana climb 110 flights of stairs on Saturday., Sept. 11, 2021, in the Schriever Fire Department training tower, approximately 80 miles south of Baton Rouge. (Contributed / Hunter Flynn)

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Firefighters from the Dickinson Fire Department participate in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb with other firefighters from the Schriever Fire Department on Saturday., Sept. 11, 2021, in the Schriever Fire Department training tower, approximately 80 miles south of Baton Rouge. The four Dickinson firefighters left for Baton Rouge, La., on Sept. 4, to help residents recover from the devastation of Hurricane Ida. (Contributed / Hunter Flynn)

Jackie Jahfetson is a graduate of Northern Michigan University whose journalism path began in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan as a freelancer for The Daily Mining Gazette. Her previous roles include editor-in-chief at The North Wind and reporter at The Mining Journal in Marquette, Mich. Raised on a dairy farm, she immediately knew Dickinson would be her first destination west as she focuses on gaining aptitude for ranch life, crop farming and everything agriculture. She covers hard news stories centered on government, fires, crime and education. When not fulfilling deadlines and attending city commission meetings, she is a budding musician and singer.
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