Locals remember those lost on Sept. 11

Firefighter Rick Evinston walks the equivalent of 110 flights of stairs in honor of those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. Photo by Emma Rausch

By Emma Rausch

Wabash County residents climbed 110 flights beside their local firefighters Friday, Sept. 9, at the fourth annual local Sept. 11 tribute in commemoration of those who lost their lives 15 years ago.

On Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaeda, an Islamic extremist terrorist group, coordinated four attacks using two planes to destroy the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and a third to damage the Pentagon.

In attempts to rescue survivors inside the World Trade Center, 343 firefighters and 72 law enforcement officers lost their lives, becoming the deadliest incident for emergency personnel in the history of the United States.

The attacks killed nearly 3,000 and injured more than 6,000.

Sunday, Sept. 11, marked the attacks’ 15th anniversary.

Four years ago, Wabash firefighters Jeff Krom and Dennis Vigar decided to remember their fallen New York City comrades by sharing their experience. The local pair donned their 60-pound bunker gear and climbed 110 flights on the stair climbers at the Wabash County YMCA.

“I think it’s close to us because we’re firefighters,” Krom told The Paper of Wabash County.

The event also commemorates the deaths of three local firefighters that lost their lives in the line of duty.

“We do this for them as well along with the 343,” Vigar said. “It’s just important to us.”

Originally, Krom and Vigar kept the event between themselves, but as word spread about their personal tribute, interest has continued to grow and more people have joined the climb.

“I think it’s outstanding that people are supporting it just for the fact that it’s one way of people not forgetting that it happened 15 years ago, and that’s what we’re shooting for now,” Vigar said. “You know, it started as a friendly, personal tribute and it’s grown into the community actually remembering what it’s for.”

This year, the event welcomed all members of the community to try the climb. While many firefighters decided to climb with their bunker gear on, the public wore common workout gear and discovered it’s not as easy as it looks, according to Vigar.

“The good thing about the public joining us this year is that they realize it’s tough to do in street clothes,” Vigar said. “Imagine doing it with 60 pounds of gear on.”

Event participant Nicole Howard decided to climb as a way to show the local firemen how thankful she is for their service.

“This is just very little that I could do to support all those that gave up their lives so selfishly to save ours,” Howard told The Paper. “It’s not just with (Sept. 11). It’s what they do every single day. They give up so much just to protect all of us.”

Howard climbed the 110-flights in 22 minutes.

“At first it was fine, but then in the middle of the 110, I started to struggle a little bit,” she admitted. “I really don’t think I could possibly do it in (bunker gear). I don’t even think I could do half of what they did.

“I’m surprised that (the firefighters) were able to keep going and not pass out with just heat exhaustion.”

This year, the event also provided the public an opportunity to donate to the Hoosier Burn Camp. Krom and Vigar began collecting donations last year and raised approximately $3,500, which sent three children to the camp.

This year, the two firemen hope to match that amount.

Krom and Vigar both appreciate the Wabash County YMCA’s support of the event as well as the community.

“We appreciate everybody coming to support this,” Krom said. “We usually see people on the worst days of their lives whether be it in the ambulance service or the fire department going out on a fire. It’s nice to be able to see them … and show mutual appreciation for each other.”

Posted on 2016 Sep 13