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.
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.