Crosby FD Stair Climb

David Taylor
Managing Editor

For the second year in a row, the Crosby Volunteer Fire Department has hosted their own 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb remembering the 343 firefighters in the Fire Department of New York who were tragically lost in one of the World Trade Center disasters. Whether it was the North or South Towers that were attacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, the 343 firefighters every year are remembered in a Memorial Stair Climb and this year Crosby was joined by several area departments.

The memorial was held last Saturday at Cougar Stadium in Crosby and began with a remembrance ceremony and the playing of the national anthem by the Crosby Middle School band under the direction of Brandy Killough.

“We were asked by one of the firemen to come and play the national anthem for them,” Killough said. One of her band students’ father is a firefighter for Crosby.

“It’s our first time and we hope it kind of becomes a tradition,” she said.

A student from the Crosby High School ROTC presented the colors and led the firefighters around the track to the starting point of the climb on the home side of the stadium.

The tradition was started by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation that supports fire service survivors. The funds raised at the memorial climb provide assistance to the surviving families and co-workers of the 343 firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Warren Thompson, Station Captain for Crosby VFD at Station 82 in Newport, along with Russell White, Assistant Fire Chief, led the event.

“Last year turned out better than we expected but we wanted it to be even bigger,” White said. “As we’re doing this interview, we have doubled the number of participants to over 100.”

Before the event began, they had already met last year’s numbers and were ahead of their goal for this year.

“There’s no obligation to wear their firefighter gear, but most of our guys are fully packed out,” the assistant chief said. That equates to more than 60 pounds of gear and for some, even air tanks.

Some wore civvies clothing and led the public participants who wanted to walk instead on the track.

To fully dress out a volunteer, White said, costs $11,000-plus, not including the radio that costs between $6,000 and $7,000 each, a result of interoperability after 9/11.

There’s no final total available at the time of this story, but White was certain they had shattered last year’s goal of $10,000. Close to a dozen other departments participated including the Harris County Pct. 2 Constable’s Office, State Troopers, Crosby EMS, North Channel EMS, and several fire departments including Anahuac, Holiday Lakes, Deer Park, and Bacliff.

“To simulate the climb of the towers, the climbers have to do four evolutions up and down in the stands. The walkers walk 16 laps around the track,” Thompson said.

“During Pearl Harbor, some of you folks weren’t even born. You may not completely understand, and we hope you never have to,” the announcer said. 9/11 was the most recent generation’s taste of terrorism.

“What we do today is not remarkable, but it is important…And I know that every one of you here knowing what you know, if the call goes out, will respond without hesitation,” the announcer prayed.

At the end of the climb or walk, each participant goes to the south end zone where they salute, and the fire bell rang. They also wear one or more of the badges of one of the 343 firefighters and carry them with them during the climb as a remembrance.

For Emily Armstrong, it’s personal.

Her uncle, 19-year-old Bob Boyles, Jr., was killed in the line of duty, Crosby VFD’s only LODD.

Boyles was killed in a wreck on his way to a fire.

“He swerved to miss the car, knowing that if he had hit them, they would have died,” his niece recalled. Instead, he died in the wreck.

For Paul and Megan Urdialez, it also had a special meaning for the husband and wife.

“I have been in the ladies auxiliary and then after my kids got older, I joined too,” she said. “I wanted other ladies to know that they could do this too. I wanted to give back a be a part of something bigger than myself,” his wife said.

Paul, who is a safety lieutenant, this was to support the department and the firemen of 9/11.

He was in sixth grade; she was in fifth grade when 9/11 occurred.

“I could see some of the teachers across the hall quickly turning off the televisions. They asked us to be really quiet because something important was happening and eventually we would see it,” he said.

Some teachers wept as the news grew worse.

“This really was our Pearl Harbor,” Paul said.

Before walkers or climbers could leave, they had to be cleared by the medical tent.

Jacque Darbonne came out in respect for his brothers and sisters in Crosby VFD who perished in 911. He was at the medical tent getting his blood pressure checked.

“We saw it on television at my workplace and then a year later, I joined the Crosby VFD. It’s been fun ever since,” he said.

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