By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterSeptember 15, 2016
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- As Americans across the world were remembering the fateful events of Sept. 11, 2001, Fort Rucker was also doing its part to make sure the nation never forgets.
This year's 9/11 remembrances consisted of multiple events to honor those who sacrificed to save the lives of so many, including a stair climb, moving tribute and ceremony at the Directorate of Public Safety.
The remembrances started off with a stair climb Sept. 9 at Bldg. 5700 where Fort Rucker firefighters came together in full gear to climb the equivalent of 110 floors, the amount of floors in the World Trade Center towers, as a tribute to those firefighters who lost their lives on that fateful day 15 years ago.
People gathered in the atrium of Bldg. 5700 to applaud the firefighters for their tribute, and Col. Shannon T. Miller, Fort Rucker garrison commander, was among those who witnessed the commemoration.
"I felt extremely proud of our firefighters as they honored their fellow brothers and sisters who died tragically 15 years ago," said the garrison commander. "As the Fort Rucker first responders made their climb while pushing each other and encouraging one another, carrying the necessary lifesaving equipment to make the 110 floors, I believe that we were all reminded of the courage that America's men and women had that day. They ran towards the face of danger, as the rest of the American public tried to get away from the danger.
"They were simply doing what they do and selflessly gave of themselves as they tried to rescue those who were in need," she continued. "It is important to take the time to reflect on our first responders' courage and determination because they truly represent what America is all about, and the resolve that our nation has to stand up to anything that threatens the American public and our way of life."
Mikel Featherston, civilian firefighter, was among those who braved the climb. He said it was an honor to be able to not only be a part of the climb, but also help plan the event.
"It really meant a lot to me to participate because I was in high school when 9/11 happened, and when it happened, I had already had planned on being a firefighter since I was a little kid but it reinforced my decision on what I wanted to do," he said. "To be able to help plan and take part in a ceremonial stair climb for the department that I work at was very emotional and it meant a lot to me."
Featherston said the climb was very physically demanding, but he and his fellow firefighters were able to push past the physical challenges of the climb because of what they were climbing for.
"I guess the adrenaline or emotions kept me going throughout the climb, but as soon as I was done and got my gear off and got back to the station I felt it," he said. "It wasn't as much adrenaline as you would get if you had a call that day to respond to, but just knowing the reason that you were doing the climb, (the adrenaline) was there to help me finish and get through it."
In addition to the stair climb, a moving tribute took place Sept. 11 to commemorate and honor Stephen Siller, a New York firefighter who was lost during the Sept. 11 attacks.
Siller had just gotten off of his shift at Squad 1, Park Slope in Brooklyn, New York, when he heard on the scanner about the first plane hitting the World Trade Center.
Upon hearing the news, he returned to his station and retrieved his gear and proceeded toward the attack site. When he reached the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, the tunnel was closed, so he strapped on his 80 pounds of gear and ran about 2 1/2 miles to the towers, where he ultimately gave his life trying to save others.
In remembrance of his actions, Fort Rucker firefighters, law enforcement members and family members took part in a moving tribute Sept. 11 where they marched the equivalent length while clad in the same type of gear that Siller ran in that day.
Following the moving tribute, a 9/11 ceremony was held to remember and honor all of those lost during the attacks.
Lt. Col. Florentino Santana, Fort Rucker DPS director, was on hand during the ceremony and spoke on the meaning of what it is first responders do as guardians.
"When there is danger, we run toward it instead of running away," he said during the ceremony. "On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, it was no different. Instantly, the losses were staggering as 343 FDNY firefighters and paramedics, 37 New York Port Authority police officers, 23 NYPD police officers and three New York State court officers lost their lives.
"First responders across the country have always understood the risk of serving the communities (in which) they live, and they continue to run into dangerous situations every day," he continued. "Let's not forget those brothers and sisters whose watch ended prematurely that morning."