Group climbs Tower of the Americas to honor firefighters killed in World Trade Center

Patriot Day Ascent honors 343 firefighters killed Sept. 11

SAN ANTONIO - A memorial stair climb at the Tower of the Americas honored the 343 fire fighters killed at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Several San Antonio-area firefighters were among those who climbed the 952 steps to the observation tower. Many of them were fully outfitted in their fire gear during the climb.

San Antonio firefighter James Planckaert was one of three who decided to climb to the top of the tower five times.

"We would do 343 floors for the 343 fire fighters that were killed on Sept. 11," he said.

As he climbed, Planckaert said he thought about the firefighters and others who died, and of a picture he'll never forget that was taken from inside a stairwell at the World Trade Center.

"I remember these firefighters looking up and just sweat pouring off of them and ... I'm remembering thinking those guys went through way worse, obviously, and didn't even make it," he said.

Every participant wore a nametag with a picture of a firefighter who died. Each person climbed in memory of that person, then signed a page after the climb to send to that fire fighter's family.

"I went ahead and printed off everybody's name. They're all with me," Planckaert said.

Firefighter Alex Barnett, Planckaert's nephew, also made the climb to the top five times. He said the physical challenge is just a small taste of what first responders faced 11 years ago.

"The two firefighters who are doing this now, they're doing it in full bunker gear, and I couldn't imagine having to do that in real-life in a situation like that. ... They're heroes," Barnett said.


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