San Antonio city leaders, the fire and police departments, along with civilians, honored the lives lost in the 9/11 attacks with a climb up the Tower of the Americas Wednesday morning.
"Our job as a first responder is to put our life on the line to help other people. That's why we chose to do this today," said Steve Valdez, a police officer from Del Rio.
The inaugural memorial and climb up the Tower of the Americas was to honor the 343 firefighters, more than 60 law enforcement officers, and the countless number of civilians who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001.
Some firefighters climbed in full bunker gear, and many made the trip to the top twice.
Kathryn Kirk, a volunteer firefighter from Windcrest, climbed to the top twice -- more than 1,800 steps to surpass the 110-story climb to the top of the twin towers.
"It is a lot harder to breathe going up steps and being on air, the paranoia level, you can imagine, but it's what we do," she said.
Kirk and others carried a picture and name of a fallen hero. She was assigned Lt. Harvey Harrell, who has become surprisingly familiar to her.
As San Antonio firefighter Joseph Munoz went up the steps of the Tower of the Americas, he remembered where he was back in 2001, as an 18-year-old in the Army.
"Our commander came out and told us, 'The U.S. has been attacked. We're at war.' Gave us extra bullets, and we had to stand guard," Munoz said.
Even as a hero in uniform himself, the images he saw that day impacted his future career choice.
"It did weigh a lot. Seeing these heroes go in to the building to try to save people," Munoz said.