Brazos Valley first responders climb stairs at Kyle Field to honor lives lost on 9/11

“We know that any day we can be called to make that sacrifice, but we also would count it an honor and privilege.”
Published: Sep. 11, 2021 at 10:38 PM CDT
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BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) -First responders from across the Brazos Valley spent their Saturday morning paying tribute to the men and women who sacrificed their lives to help others on September 11th.

Over 400 first responders from all walks of life, including firefighters, law enforcement officers, and medical personnel, made the ultimate sacrifice that Tuesday morning.

On the 20th anniversary of the attacks on America, over 100 of the Brazos Valley’s finest honored those heroes by climbing the equivalent of 110 flights of stairs at Kyle Field.

As local first responders reflect on that tragic day, they all say Saturday’s stair climb is to let the families of the fallen and the world know that they will never forget the brave souls that entered the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center 7,305 days ago.

Daniel Buford, president of the Bryan Firefighters Association, says he will never forget the events of September 11th. He says Saturday’s stair climb displays the unity that’s shared amongst his fellow firefighters across the country.

“It’s a humbling event. It’s an event that we get to share with first responders across the nation. We’re seeing fire departments across our nation climb these towers today, in unison to remember them,” said Buford. “Thinking about what those first responders were thinking as they climb those tower stairs to go make rescues, and then finding out who those men and women were after they’ve passed away and the stories and legacy’s they leave.”

“Those first responders that day, those are the heroes. Those are the individuals that gave their all,” said Buford. “They knew when they were walking into that tower that at that moment they could sacrifice it all, but it was for the other people. It was for those people that were stuck in the towers. It was for those people that were exiting the towers. For them to give it, all just makes them that hero that paid the true sacrifice.”

Ernest Upchurch, chaplain for the City of Bryan Fire Department, says it’s his honor to climb the stairs for fellow first responders like Father Mychal Judge, chaplain for the New York City Fire Department, and victim number one.

“It’s not just a slogan that we made about we’re never going to forget. It’s a promise that we made, and we’re going to continue to remember every year, their loved ones and the sacrifice that they made,” said Upchurch. “We want to honor their loved ones by remembering them. We want to continue to honor them as the year’s progress and make sure that no one forgets what happened that day.”

“One of the hardest things in the world is that after someone passes away, their family thinks that they will be forgotten,” said Upchurch. “It’s our job, our duty, and our promise to them that we will never forget the sacrifice that the fire department of New York made in order to save other’s lives.”

Keeping to that promise, every first responder that climbed the stars Saturday made the journey with a photo of one of the fallen. Lieutenant Jason James with the Bryan Police Department has climbed the stairs of Kyle Field several times. Each time, he carries the photo of the same two New York City law enforcement officers with him in honor of Officers John J. Lennon and Mark Ellis.

“Everybody walked with somebody that day, and I’ve been able to keep these cards, and since then, every year, I walk with them up the stairs,” said James.

“The first responders that went into that building saved so many lives and then ended up losing their lives in the process,” said James. “It’s that ultimate sacrifice that we know we all can make at any day. But to see so many get lost on that one particular day for one act brings emotions out, and it’s why you do this job. You want to help people, and you see them helping people, and you know they make the ultimate sacrifice.”

While Saturday was a moment to honor the fallen, it was also an opportunity to reflect on the dedication of first responders everywhere.

“It’s sad, you know a lot of those firefighters, and first responders had to say goodbye to their families the day before they went into work to do their normal job and didn’t even realize that that would be their last day on earth,” said Natasha Rondao, St. Joseph Health EMT. “Today, I’m just remembering all the people that sacrificed their lives doing what basically we do every day as first responders, just helping others. They laid down their life without asking for anything in return.”

“We know that any day we can be called to make that sacrifice, but we also would count it an honor and privilege,” said Upchurch.

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