MEDFORD, Ore.– September 11, 2001 is a day that still ripples through the lives of many American citizens. It was undoubtedly the worst tragedy the U.S. has ever faced at home and first responders were the ones on the front lines doing their best to save as many as they could.
For local firefighters in southern Oregon, they share the painful memories of that day and do their part to honor all those who died in the attacks. One way is an annual stair climb remembrance ceremony held at the Rogue Valley Manor – something the manor has hosted since 2002.
To those in attendance, this ceremony carries the weight of all those lost 17 years ago in the attacks – 2,977 people, of which 343 were firefighters.
With the ring of a bell three times, then four times, then three times again, the chimes signify the lives of the 343 firefighters and the beginning of a climb up 10 flights of stairs.
“You know, it’s still something I remember even 17 years later,” said Bracken Sharp, 23. “Being a little kid, it’s something that was very powerful to me. Especially at a young age.”
Sharp arrived with his crew mates from Grants Pass Fire-Rescue. Along with other branches from Medford and Klamath County, around 100 firefighters in total made the climb this year.
Marching in silence, Sharp says the climb is an emotional journey.
“You know climbing the tower in silence with a bunch of other firefighters and just remembering, you know, those ones that climbed those towers knowing that might be their last run…,” he said. ” It’s very humbling.”
Once at the top, community members in attendance applauded the firefighters as they made a circle to begin a prayer. Fire Chaplain Fred Saada and Rogue Valley Manor’s Director of Pastoral Services Joel Maiorano also gave speeches honoring the lives of those who have died serving their communities and the firefighters that continue to serve.
“One of the things that has held is our desire to serve and a lot of people that join the fire service are servants at heart,” said Chief Brian Fish, Medford Fire-Rescue.
With the memories of that tragedy still fresh for millions of Americans, Jeanette Lisk was one of those in attendance and a first-timer. For her, the moment was powerful and emotional. But it highlighted what she has seen in so many in the wake of a national tragedy.
Something powerful in the community of the American Spirit.
“It’s just what we are,” she said. “You know, we’re strong.”
NBC5 News Reporter Miles Furuichi graduated from Chapman University with degrees in English and Journalism. He received post graduate experience in Los Angeles in photojournalism and commercial photography. He also spent time in Dublin, Ireland working in print journalism and advertising.
Miles is a Rogue Valley native, raised in Ashland. He enjoys hiking, mountain biking and photography.