By David Ruiz
Close to 400 firefighters, policemen, their family members waited expectantly Tuesday morning in a vacant retail space on the first floor of downtown Sacramento's Renaissance Building. In a few minutes, 343 firefighters would begin a 110-story climb to honor their fallen New York counterparts who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks 11 years ago today.
Last year, for the 10th anniversary of 9/11, firefighters came from Los Angeles and San Diego to make the climb, said coordinator Captain Eric Guida of the Sacramento Fire Department. He said he made the climb for the first event four years ago, but has transitioned to planning it since then.
Tuesday, the firefighters from Sacramento, Woodland, El Dorado, San Jose, and more were present.
Clipped onto each climber's jacket was a deceased firefighter's name, each representing one of the 343 who died on 9/11. At the end of the climb, each firefighter added the name to a memorial and rang a bell.
Before the ascent, a marching crew of eight - equipped with drums and bagpipes - walked through the crowd creating a center aisle.
At the end of the aisle stood guest speaker Captain Mike Dugan of the New York Fire Department who responded to the September 11 attacks. Dugan thanked the volunteers for their compassion and honor.Lining up for the hour and a half task, firefighters were visited by their wives and children who wished them good luck.
To complete 110 stories, firefighters must climb 26 stories three times over and then climb all the way to the roof - 32 stories - on the fourth repetition.
Guida said that firefighters sign up to volunteer in July, and extra names are put on a standby list. Since scheduling conflicts are common, Guida said almost everybody on the standby list gets the opportunity to climb.
On the 26th floor and basement are beverages and snacks for the firefighters when they need to refuel. Guida said that if a climber becomes too tired to continue, another climber on the standby list can finish the climb.
Guida said having separate climbers for the same name doesn't dilute the purpose. "What matters is that those names get to the roof."
Photo caption: Firefighters walk up the steps toward the top of the Renaissance Tower in Sacramento on Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012 to honor all 343 New York firefighters who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. Photo by Randy Pench / firstname.lastname@example.org