SA first responders observe 9/11 with Tower of the Americas climb

Annual event recreates steps taken by firefighters, police at World Trade Center

By Katrina Webber - Crime Fighters Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Several hundred San Antonio firefighters and police officers suited up in their full gear Monday morning to scale 952 steps inside the Tower of the Americas to remember first responders at the World Trade Center who lost their lives on 9/11.

Local first responders went up and down the stairs twice, hoping to approximate the distance their counterparts in New York City faced on Sept. 11, 2001, when climbing the 110-floor World Trade Center.

The annual event is known as the San Antonio 110 9/11 Tower Climb.

"To show our respect for all our fallen officers and first responders, and of course, everyone that passed away on 9/11," Bexar County Sheriff's Office Deputy Chief Nancy Sanford said. "I'm just proud to be here. "

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Jesse Garcia, a firefighter with the Ata-Bexar Volunteer Fire Department, said he wouldn't dream of doing it any other way.

"Just knowing the struggle they went through," he said. "When they were responding, we knew that they knew they probably might not make it."

Garcia was in high school at the time of the terrorist attacks.  However, Garcia said he still feels a connection to those in uniform who lost their lives.

Other participants, including a group of firefighters from Houston who are still reeling from Hurricane Harvey, took part in spite of their own losses.

"There's a lot of places still underwater. Some of the fire stations got flooded out," firefighter Matt Connell said. "I fared out pretty well, but there are definitely a lot of guys working hard back home right now."

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Paul Duran, a firefighter with the Boerne Fire Department, has taken part in the climb before and jumped at the chance to do it again.

"We may have never known them, but it's just something really special to be able to do this with everybody else," Duran said.

Like all of the others, Duran had a plastic card attached to a lanyard dangling from his neck. The cards featured a photo and name of one of the fallen first responders.

"It looks light, but it's actually pretty heavy," he said, referring to the emotion behind the card. "Getting to research these guys, afterwards, really hits home after you've climbed."

This year, participants took a moment to reflect on a loss closer to home.

They held a moment of silence in honor of San Antonio firefighter Scott Deem, who died in a fire earlier this year.

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