Cassville Firefighters beat 40 other departments at stair climb
Firefighting team raises $1,405, keeps 9/11 Memorial Bell for a year
Four Cassville firefighters and their families attended the fourth annual 2016 Springfield Area 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb on Sunday, Sept. 11 at Silver Dollar City in Branson.
As part of the event, climbers had the opportunity to raise money for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF). Funds are used to help support the families of the 343 Fire Department of New York (FDNY) members who were lost on 9/11 and other NFFF programs.
The event involved firefighters, many in full gear, climbing the equivalent of 110 flights of stairs, as did their fellow firefighters at 9/11, made possible by completing six laps around Echo Hollow at Silver Dollar City. There were 245 climbers representing 30 to 40 departments. This is the fourth year that Silver Dollar City has hosted this event.
This year, the fire department team that raised the most money for the NFFF was given the opportunity to keep the 9/11 Memorial Bell at their fire station for one year.
Out of all the departments that participated, the Cassville Fire Protection District team raised the most funds at $1,405, and was given the incredible honor of taking the bell home, where it now sits in the fire station until next year's event.
"We were the very first department to take home the bell," said Cassville Firefighter Michael Correia.
In individual awards, Cassville Firefighter Travis Littler earned a helmet for raising the most funds. The event deeply affected the firefighters.
"It makes a big impact," said Chuck Miner, district administrator for the Cassville Fire Protection District, CFPD, who visited the Twin Towers last summer. "It makes it a little more meaningful to go there and understand one of the reasons why the event is done. It's pretty sobering."
All four firefighters who participated, Jeff Bolton, Corinna Bolton, Michael Correia and Travis Littler, made it up all 110 flights.
"It took about two hours," said Michael Correia. "I was pretty sore for a few days after. It's really an emotional time. They have speakers that come and were actually New York Firefighters at the time, plus they play Amazing Grace and bag pipes while firefighters are climbing, so, with all that together, it's very emotional. With all the emotion you can feel from it, I wish they could get more spectators at the event to watch the climb."
Correia said he felt honored to participate in the event, and represent both his fellow firefighters, and community.
"It's an amazing feeling, and knowing you're supporting your brothers and sisters in the fire service, and we know what it feels like to run into a burning building, or go to an accident and it's just about sharing support for one another," he said.
Cassville Firefighter Jeff Bolton also shared his perspective.
"It was a very humbling and moving experience everyone needs to do," he said.
Climbing 110 flights of stairs is a tough physical challenge under normal circumstances, let alone under the extreme physical and emotional conditions surrounding the fateful day on Sept. 11, 2001, on which 343 firefighters lost their lives.
Many participants at the event climbed with full gear and equipment on, Correia said, to accurately represent the same physical challenge their firefighting brothers endured that day.
"Some carry their axes, equipment and full gear," he said. "That's what it's about, to try to represent them, and to experience what they went through and what it's like go into a burning building. [As tough as it was], everyone was just encouraging one another to continue the climb through the finish. But as a firefighter, we know that you do what you've got to do to get the job done."
Other local firefighters participated in the event as well, including Butterfield, Washburn and Pierce City.
Correia spoke for himself and his fellow firefighters about what it felt like to be a part of the event.
"It's just a wonderful feeling knowing you're doing something for your your fellow firefighters, and your community," he said. "It was a real honor and makes you feel like you're stepping up for your community and city. I'm really, really proud."
Firefighters were given a T-shirt with an outline of the Twin Towers and "343 Never Forget" written on the shirt.
For more information about the annual event, visit www.springfieldmemorialstairclimb.org.