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Memorial climb recreates 9/11 emergency response

PUSH THROUGH: Lauren Dale and Dan Dyson attempt to climb 110 flights of stairs during the Wabash County YMCA's memorial stair climb held on Sept. 11.

by ANDREW CHRISTMAN - achristman@wabashplaindealer.com

Seventeen years have passed since nearly 3,000 people were killed on that fateful day of Sept. 11, 2001. But the memory of those lives has not been lost, even here in Wabash.

On Tuesday, local first responders were joined by the community for a memorial stair climb held at the Wabash County YMCA. Its a tradition five years in the making, in which participants attempt to climb 110 flights of stairs in honor of the 334 first responders who died in the line of duty that day.

To make the moment a bit more real, participants are given the option to wear an additional 70 lbs. in gear.

“We want everybody to remember the sacrifice those guys made that day and to support your local fire and police departments,” Lt. Jeff Krom of the Wabash Fire Department said.

Among those taking part this year were Lauren Dale and her son Dan Dyson, a member of the Wabash Fire Department. The duo have participated in the stair climb together for the past three years.

“I feel it’s a good way to remember the firefighters from 9/11," Dyson said. "The guys within the department motivate one another and challenge each other to do it. We also do this for our community. We want to show them we’re active, we’re staying in shape and going after it, because it makes a difference for our lives and it makes a difference for peoples’ lives here in Wabash too.”

Dale decided to take on the challenge after her son joined the fire department several years ago. For her, participating in the memorial stair climb is one way to think of her friends and family who are first responders. But it's also a way for Dale to bond with her son, as fitness has been a common connection between them.

This was the first year Dale completed the climb with a 10 lb. weighted vest.

“I don’t know how they (firefighters) do it," she said. "I don’t know how they would do their jobs with 70 lbs. of gear on. I just wanted to experience it.”

YMCA Director of Strategic Initiatives Chris Sloan said hosting the event was a “no-brainer” when the Wabash Fire Department approached the gym in 2013. The event has only grown since then, Sloan said.

In its first year, only two stair climbers were available for participants. But the number of machines has doubled as more and more participants show up to try the challenge each year.

“I think it brings people together," Sloan said. "Wabash has that spirit of collaboration."

The memorial climb also acts as a fundraiser for the Hoosier Burn Camp, having raised more than $6,000 in three years.