About 50 firefighters from area fire departments finished the 110-story climb Sunday that more than 340 New York City firefighters started Sept 11, 2001, in the World Trade Center, but never finished.
Men and women from the area fire departments donned the heavy firefighting gear along with tags bearing the name of a firefighter killed and climbed the 10 stories of the Governmental Building on St. Louis Street 11 times to symbolize the 110 stories of the World Trade Center.
“We’re finishing the climb that they weren’t able to complete,” said Baton Rouge Fire Department spokesman Curt Monte. “It’s in their honor to show we appreciate and remember the ultimate sacrifice they gave that day.”<p/>The stair-climb came after the annual ceremony at the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial & Museum to remember the five Louisiana natives — as well as the others — who lost their lives in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. <p/>Speakers at the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial & Museum, including relatives of Baton Rouge native Navy Lt. Michael “Scotty” Lamana, Mayor-President Kip Holden and Baton Rouge Fire Chief Ed Smith, all had one common message: “Never forget.”
“It is important that as a nation, we never forget,” said Dani Lamana, Scotty Lamana’s sister. “We will smile for them, laugh for them, fight for them, and above all live for them.”<p/>More than 100 people attended the memorial, which featured musical tributes to the fallen, a wreath laying ceremony and other somber moments that had several attendees wiping away tears.
Mike Lamana, Scotty Lamana’s father, gestured toward the group of firefighters, police officers and emergency medical services workers gathered at the USS Kidd, calling the first responders “everyday heroes.
I define a hero as when everyone else is running away, they’re running toward,” Mike Lamana said. “When you call 911, you know they’ll be there.”Claire Fielding, of Baton Rouge, said she attends the memorial at the USS Kidd every year.
Fielding said she has a host of veterans and active duty servicemen in her family, including some who have served in Iraq.
“I love to come to the memorial, but I cry every time,” she said. “It’s just so sad. It’s so sad that this could happen to our beautiful country.”
At the end of the ceremony, hundreds of participants walked a mile along the Mississippi River levee as part of the Freedom Walk, an event started in Washington, D.C., that is now held in more than 500 cities nationwide.
Allison Barber, founder of the Freedom Walk, said Sunday she was working in the Pentagon when in 2005 she and a few others decided laying a wreath at the crash site was not enough of a memorial to those who died.
They decided to hold a walk. They expected a few hundred people to participate; more than 15,000 people showed up.
“You’re not alone,” Barber told the crowd of Baton Rouge walkers. “The walks allow for a reflection on the tragedy and a means to remember the lives lost as Americans strengthen our resolve, and stand and walk for freedom.”Bruce Duco walked with his daughter, Lilly, 3, on his shoulders, a small U.S. flag gripped in her hand.
Duco, Scotty Lamana’s brother-in-law, and his wife, Jennifer, said the walk is therapeutic and their way of remembering Scott Lamana.
“We can’t be in Washington, D.C., with my sister, Scott’s wife, so this is our own way of remembering,” Bruce Duco said. “It helps.”
More than 70 firefighters led the walk but then split off from the rest of the walkers, filing into the Governmental Building to begin their 110-story ascent.
“The climb shows the brotherhood shared between all firefighters,” said Curt Monte, a spokesman for the Baton Rouge Fire Department.
Similar stair climbs are held nationwide, Monte said.
Doug Beauchamp scaled the 11 stories twice with the names of five fallen firefighters hanging on tags around his neck.
Beauchamp, who serves as fire chief of the volunteer Clinton Fire Department and as superintendent of the East Feliciana Parish school system, said it was an honor to climb for those who couldn’t.
“I wanted to show my support of all the present firefighters and especially the ones who lost their lives that day,” he said.
SuSu Rosenthal, of Baton Rouge, arrived at First Baptist Church Sunday evening to reflect on the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Like many in the packed church, Rosenthal remembered exactly where she was on that fateful day 10 years ago.
“I was in my apartment, I woke up late that morning,” Rosenthal recalled. “I turned on Good Morning America on television and saw the first plane go into the tower.”
“Both of my sons lived in New York,” Rosenthal said. “They lived in Brooklyn; their view was the twin towers.”
While she was able to make immediate contact with her younger son, it would be days before she would learn that her oldest son — who had been in lower Manhattan when the World Trade Center towers collapsed — was OK, she said.
“It was a devastating time,” Rosenthal recalled.
Hundreds gathered at the church for the 10th anniversary program, “Remembering the Fallen and Celebrating Freedom” to remember those who gave their lives in the terrorist attacks; and to thank those who serve the nation — firefighters, police officers, first responders and members of the military.
Speakers, including Gov. Bobby Jindal, Mayor-President Kip Holden, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, spoke of the heroic efforts of those who put their lives in danger to save others on Sept. 11; those who respond to emergencies everyday, and those who have fought and are still fighting to keep America free.
“You are the example of those who responded on 9/11,” Cassidy told numerous firefighters, police officers, first responders and military personnel present.
Louisiana National Guard Lt. Col. Cindy Haygood was overwhelmed by the service.
“I’m very appreciative to be thanked. It feels good,” Haywood said. “But (being put in harm’s way) is so much a part of our job…we take it for granted that we wouldn’t be thanked.”
Col. Mike Edmonson, superintendent of State Police, agreed with Haywood.
“I think it’s an honor to be recognized not as individuals, but collectively,” Edmonson said.
Earlier in the day, people from all denominations strolled from church to church in a Moveable Pray for Peace Vigil.
Jan Boydstun, of University Presbyterian Church and a member of Interfaith Federation of Greater Baton Rouge, called the day “touching,” a stark contrast from what she remembers of Sept. 11, 2001.
Boydstun visited Beth Shalom Synagogue, where people of all faiths gathered to commemorate Sept. 11, and Elm Grove Church, before making her way to St. Joseph Cathedral for a Community Gathering for Peace service.
“A lot of people are still healing from what they went through,” said Kevin Elzey, who also attended the community gathering.
“This is just a day of prayer; a day of remembrance and healing for a lot of people,” he said.