JEFFERSONVILLE — During a Friday event, a local firefighter paid tribute to the New York City first responders who sacrificed their lives to save others during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Jeffersonville Fire Department Lt. Anthony Thomas walked 110 flights of stairs dressed in full firefighting gear Friday at Workout Anytime Jeffersonville to remember and honor the 343 firefighters who died in the line of duty while responding to the 9/11 tragedy. He made the climb on Patriot Day, or the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Thomas was one of five Jeffersonville firefighters to complete the stair climb challenge at the Jeffersonville gym this week. The challenge is performed by firefighters across the country, and the 110 flights of stairs represents the climb the New York City firefighters and first responders made inside the World Trade Center on 9/11.
“Those [first responders] in New York — they can’t be replaced,” Thomas said. “There were firefighters, police officers, paramedics and civilians.”
Thomas always wanted to be a firefighter, but when he learned the news of the 9/11 attacks, he was even more motivated to pursue the career. He started with Jeffersonville Fire in 2007.
“[9/11] was the extra little boost that I got to go on and make that decision to get on the fire department,” he said.
Melissa Wharton, owner of Workout Anytime Jeffersonville, said the stair climb will be an annual event at the gym to remember the sacrifices of the first responders who died during the 9/11 attacks.
“Even today, we are still remembering what happened on 9/11, and we are still honoring those men and women who lost their lives,” she said. “We are doing this in honor of them, and we always will.”
Thomas wants to bring awareness of the risks and sacrifices firefighters face in the line of duty.
“Here locally, we’re a small department, but we all put ourselves through hazards and dangerous situations not even thinking what might happen or the outcome — we just put our boots on and come to work and just hope and pray we come back home to our families,” he said.
Thomas, 46, weighs 205 pounds, and he added another 80 pounds of gear and equipment to complete the 110-flights on the stair climbing machine. It was a tough climb that took about 40 minutes, and he took a few breaks for water.
“We put ourselves through it, but it’s nothing like what the [9/11 firefighters] went through,” he said. “They had fire above their head, not knowing what they were going to come across — they just did their job. I think it’s good for any fire department to kind of put their guys through this and let them know what those guys went through.”