U.S. Army soldiers stationed in Germany spent this year on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks commemorating the ultimate sacrifice of firefighters responding to the World Trade Center in New York City.
Wearing protective suits, oxygen masks, helmets and air tanks, soldiers ascended 110 floors on stairlifts at Tower Barracks Physical Fitness Center in Grafenwoehr in tribute to the 110 floors of the World Trade Twin Towers Center.
“This is a great opportunity for these soldiers to reflect on the meaning of this day and this [Patriot Day] holiday that we now commemorate,” said Captain Robert Harlow, commanding officer of 23rd Company Artillery, an army firefighting unit at Tower Barracks. “Remembering 21 years not only of the terrorist attacks themselves, but also of the sacrifices we, as a military community, have made in the war on terror.”
Of the 2,977 victims killed in the September 11 attacks, 343 New York City Fire Department firefighters perished during the response at the World Trade Center.
SPC. Joshua Lindley, a firefighter assigned to 23rd, said it means a lot to him to experience some of what they have done.
“It’s a lot, and it’s heartbreaking to know that they’ve been through it all. It makes me proud to do what I do,” Lindley said.
Lindley was one of six soldiers who completed the memorial climb. But they weren’t all firefighters.
sergeant. Emmanuel Rodriguez, a utility equipment repairer assigned to the 51st Composite Truck Company of the 18th Sustainment Support Battalion, trains frequently with his friends from the 23rd.
“I’m not a firefighter, but I’m doing this because I like representing this. I’m proud to represent that,” Rodriguez said.
While completing 110 floors on a stair-climbing machine is certainly strenuous, it was easier than Rodriguez expected.
“So I made it harder,” he said.
“I made it harder because I want to simulate what firefighters went through. Even if it wasn’t so realistic, I want to make it as hard as possible to feel more proud and get closer to the feeling of those firefighters who were there on 9/11.
The soldiers were all different ages during the 2001 attacks. Rodriguez was 2 years old. Harlow was 6. 1st Sgt. Thomas Waelty, an ammunition specialist and senior member of the 23rd, was 20 years old.
At the time, Waelty was a Private First Class, serving as a mechanic at the same location where he is now stationed.
“I remember exactly where I was,” Waelty said. “I was in [Grafenwoehr]. We have had [left] going to Poland for training and we were halfway there, then we stopped at a German kasern. The Germans came running in and they said, “Hey, America is under attack.”
Now, working with soldiers who regularly fight fires side-by-side with their German counterparts, Waelty can see the significance of the 9/11 anniversary on a regular basis.
“It means a lot to keep doing this and never forget what is happening and what happened.”
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