While in 10th grade, Chris Doeblin watched the TV with his teachers and classmates as the events of 9/11 unfolded. Living only four hours from the Twin Towers in New York, Doeblin couldn’t believe what was happening.
While individuals evacuated the area, first responders faced the dangers of Ground Zero to save lives while risking their own. As the towers fell, 343 firefighters and 71 law enforcement officers lost their lives.
Today, Doeblin works as a firefighter in Bryan, where he coordinates the city’s annual stair climb in honor of the first responders who lost their lives on 9/11. According to Doeblin, it is an important day for first responders across the nation.
“That day, no matter what’s going on, no matter what kind of problems you have in your life, you put everything aside to honor those people,” Doeblin said. “Even the dauntingness of your biggest problem seems minute to climbing those stairs.”
The Bryan Fire Department will host the climb at Lakewalk Observation Tower on Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. Participants will climb the stairs repeatedly until they’ve reached a total of 110 stories, mirroring the number of floors in the World Trade Center. This year, the College Station Fire Department will host the city’s second annual stair climb at Aspire Apartments on Wednesday from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Doeblin, who first attended Bryan’s stair climb five years ago, said he felt pride when he learned that his place of work honored the fallen first responders in this way.
“I really didn’t know what to expect from it,” Doeblin said. “Especially in the fire service, I just think that it’s a really good tradition. It’s all over the country on that day, saying take a minute to reflect and remember the sacrifice that those guys made that day.”
Each year, community members that attend the event encourage climbers and offer water to the first responders as they reach the bottom of the stairwell.
“I think that it’s also a way to keep families involved as well,” Doeblin said. “They’re happy that their legacy lives on and people don’t forget.”
Texas A&M University Police Officer David Lange plans to attend the stair climb for the first time this Wednesday. According to Lange, 9/11 was something that Americans experienced together, so it is important that Americans also remember it together.
“What we do through events like this lets them know that we haven't forgotten what happened, that we remember them and how they died,” Lange said. “It's important that these commemorations happen all over the country — that we remember together, as Americans.”
After taking part in the 2018 stair climb, University Police Officer William Pike plans to make the climb again on Wednesday morning. Pike said he recalls the climb being difficult both physically and emotionally.
“It’s difficult; the climb feels like it’s a little neverending as you go up and down,” Pike said. “We’re rubbing shoulders, everyone’s sweating, you can see the exhaustion wiping over everyone’s face, but at the same time we’re all there saying ‘hey it’s only a couple more flights,’ kind of making jokes with each other as we pass.”
University Police Officer Adam Byrne said that the climb is an important community event that brings a sense of cohesiveness back to communities when there seems to be such a trend towards division in society.
“It is truly a privilege to not only get to take part in the stair climb and honor those who responded to the Sept. 11 events, but it is equally a privilege to be reminded of the family that we are a part of as first responders,” Byrne said. “The bond shared by first responders is something hard to explain with words but is put on full display at these memorial stair climbs every year all across the nation.”
After attending the event last year, Byrne said he is excited to take part in the climb a second time.
“I was invited by coworkers to participate last year and was glad I accepted the invitation,” Byrne said. “It not only brought me closer to my coworkers through shared experience, but gave me a memory that I can hold onto and cherish.”
According to Doeblin, the event helps strengthen ties between firefighters, police officers and EMTs. He said these relationships can make the difference when first responders work together in the field.
“It builds a better comradery,” Doeblin said. “It makes an easier transition when you’re on an actual emergency in town, and it just unites everybody and just kind of gives you a sense of brotherhood.”