Seven firefighters from Grande Cache have been gearing up for the third annual New York City Memorial Stair Climb.
More than 400 first responders will make the daring ascent at 4 World Trade Centre on Sunday. Each participant has pledged to climb 72 flights of stairs in memory of a first responder who died on September 11, 2001.
Captain John Warencyia has spent four months training for this ambitious feat. He’ll be joined by six other colleagues for the climb.
The team has also taken on the Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge in Calgary and are looking to do so again this year.
“I’m a little bit older so my training isn’t quite as intense as the younger members of the fire department,” Warencyia said. “Their times will be much, much better than mine. Mine is pretty much going to survive and make sure I can do all 72 floors.”
Participants will be making the trek in full gear.
“We have a stair climber, so I’m on that,” said firefighter Phillip Howe. “We actually brought a self-contained breathing apparatus to the gym itself so we could use that to kind of stimulate the weight that we’d be hauling upstairs.”
Last year 343 firefighters took part from around the world. This year, more challenges were added to represent New York City Police Department (NYPD) and Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) members who lost their lives that day.
“They’re coming from seven different countries and 27 different states,” said event coordinator Elizabeth Benham from New York City.
According to Benham, three Canadian fire departments are taking part this year, including teams from Ottawa and Calgary.
For the crew from Grande Cache, the colossal climb bears major significance.
Captain Warencyia is climbing in memory of Michael Bocchino, who was 45 years old when the Twin Towers fell.
“He was a 22-year vet on the New York City Fire Department (FDNY). He joined the fire department in December of 1980,” Warencyia recalled.
Phillip Howe is climbing for Michael Lynch, a firefighter who was just 33 when he died.
His biography on the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation website reads: “It came as no surprise to us when the medical examiner informed us that‚ when Michael was found on March 21st‚ he had either been carrying a woman or shielding her with his bunker coat. It simply reinforced our conviction that he was truly a brave hero.”
Ryan Trimble is paying tribute to Lieutenant Stephen Bates, a nearly 20-year member of the FDNY.
This year, the event will benefit the 9-11 Tribute Centre and the Friends of Firefighters group. It provides free and confidential counseling and wellness services to active and retired FDNY firefighters and their families.