9/11 stair climb at Watertown’s Dulles State Office Building to honor fallen first responders

Published: Sep. 8, 2023 at 3:22 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - This Sunday, north country first responders will honor their counterparts who died responding to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The attacks on the World Trade Center killed 343 firefighters, 60 police officers, and 8 emergency medical service providers.

Those people are 411 reasons local first responders will climb the stairs of the Dulles State Office Building on Sunday.

“We had a lot of first responders get killed on September 11. The whole came to their aftermath. Twenty-two years later we vowed to never forget, and we are never forgetting,” said Travis Donelson, event director, Thousand Islands 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.

Firefighters from across the north country were at Thompson Park in Watertown last week to get ready for this weekend’s climb, which will be the first time a Memorial Stair Climb will be hosted in Watertown.

“We’re all together climbing the stairs. It’s very quiet and you got a lot going through your mind about thinking about what they were feeling that day. It’s a really emotional event, but it makes me feel like I’m a part of something bigger than myself,” said Sereenah George, assistant event director, Thousand Islands 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.

Along with banners honoring the fallen posted in the stairwells, starting at 8:46 a.m., when the first plane slammed into the North Tower, ceremonies will take place to honor specific times from that morning.

“Those time stamps mean something. To just hear it and feel it amongst all of the first responders there, it’s humbling, it’s heartwarming,” said Donelson.

The proceeds of the day will go to Priority Wellness Campaign, an organization focused on the mental health of first responders in Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties.

“It’s a very big honor to receive that and to team up with them and work with them. We have some of our members who are going to volunteer there where we can; we have some that are climbing,” said Ryan McIntosh, deputy director, Priority Wellness Campaign.

Many of the first responders have climbed in the annual event hosted in Utica. They say they hope Sunday’s climb in Watertown can become a north country tradition.

“This is year one. There are a number of stair climbs across the county. We wanted to make sure there was one here that remained every single year in a stable spot. That made a lot of sense, and was easy logistically so that we could never forget,” said state Senator Mark Walczyk (R - 49th District).

The Thousand Islands Memorial Stair Climb begins at 7 a.m. Sunday morning. The inaugural climb is open to all who wish to participate, you can register online at http://www.thousandislandsstairclimb.com/