“Never forget” is a term that is often said when referencing the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Tupelo Fire Department ensures that no one will ever forget the great sacrifice, heroism, and emotions that took place that day through its annual Tupelo 9/11 Stair Climb.
This is the seventh year for the Stair Climb, an event that would not be possible without Melinda Monts, the wife of Captain Kelly Monts, and the The Tupelo Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary.
The Tupelo 9/11 Stair Climb pays tribute to the 343 firefighters, 72 law enforcement, and 8 EMTs who lost their lives on Ground Zero on September 11.
Melinda Monts spearheaded the event seven years ago to raise funds for a local charity of their choosing while also honoring the first responders who sacrificed their lives on 9/11. “We don’t ever want anyone to forget 9/11. It’s been 22 years since the twin towers fell, and sometimes people ask me, “why do you still do this? 9/11 was so long ago!? And, that’s exactly why—we don’t ever want to forget.”
“This is a great event that takes a lot of hard work, but it’s also a good way for us to remember 9/11 here in Tupelo,” Fire Chief Brad Robinson said.
The Stair Climb will take place at the Cadence Bank Arena in downtown Tupelo, on Saturday, September 9, beginning at 7:00 am and ending at noon. Each participant who registers for the stair climb receives a t-shirt and climbs the equivalent of 110 stories throughout the arena while wearing a memorial badge remembering one of the fallen first responders from 9/11/01. Monts takes the time to research the lives of these fallen first responders, and there is a small biography about their life to accompany the badge.
In addition, this year’s climb will have 343 small flags displayed to represent the 343 firemen who lost their lives while saving others at Ground Zero. The community also has the opportunity to “adopt a floor,” providing opportunity for sponsors to donate funds to the cause. There are 110 floors, representing the 110 floors of The World Trade Center.
This event is not a race, nor is it a timed event. Participants can go at their own pace. A bagpipe player leads the climbers off, and there are two moments of silence in remembrance of when the towers fell, one for the north tower and one for the south tower.
A DJ plays the 9/11 radio traffic from that day as the stairs are climbed, along with each tower’s two moments of silence. Additionally, all firefighters in attendance activate their PASS devices to symbolize the sounds heard at Ground Zero.
A PASS device (Personal Alert Safety System) is a personal safety device used primarily by firefighters entering a hazardous or immediately dangerous to life and health environment (DLH). The PASS device sounds a loud (95 decibel) audible alert to notify others in the area that the firefighter is in distress.
“The PASS device is a sound that no one wants to hear, but it’s the reality of a firefighter. During 9/11, many people thought that the constant sound of loud alarms were car alarms going off, but it was actually the sound of these PASS devices going off non-stop,” Chief Robinson stated.
“People are in awe, and it gets very emotional as they watch people climb these stairs in honor of the first responders who lost their lives on 9/11. At least 20 fire departments throughout Mississippi join the event, and many of them wear full gear,” Monts said.
As participants finish their climb, they are asked to ring a bell in remembrance of the person they represented.
This year the proceeds of the Stair Climb will benefit “Beds for Kids,” a group of volunteers who make beds for children who don’t have one, including a mattress, pillows, and bedding. “We always like to choose a charity that is doing great work but often gets overlooked,” Monts said.
“This is an event that really hits home, and its humbling to see the community come together, and the brotherhood between firefighters and fire departments, Chief Robinson said.
The Tupelo 9/11 Stair Climb is a beautiful way to remember and honor those fallen heroes while promoting promoting a sense of community and reminding all ages never to forget.