DALLAS — Wednesday marks 12 years since the September 11 terrorist attacks.
On Saturday, the third annual 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb was held at the Renaissance Tower in Dallas in honor of the people killed in the attacks.
"I’m so tired now; I can't even think straight. So, I can just imagine what those guys went through that day," said Lee Rhinebarger at the end of a climb that was equivalent to the 110 floors of the World Trade Center towers.
There was no rush to the top; there was no one waiting desperately for help; no smoke in the stairwells or heat coming from the other side of a door.
But each boot-heavy step was not without purpose,
"It is infinitely important to never forget," said Jon-Mikal Portugal, who will graduate from the firefighting academy on October 23. The former Marine Corps sergeant was honored to represent his class and Dallas Fire-Rescue during the climb, which included 343 firefighters and 70 police officers representing 109 departments and three states.
All were suited up in full emergency gear, wearing photos of the men and women who died around their necks.
All the money raised goes to five different charities that help the families of the September 11 victims and other fallen firefighters and police officers.
"There's thousands of people who died in this that you know died heroes,” Rhinebarger said. “They're not victims. They are heroes. So we are doing it for them.”
Christina Rancke's father died in the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Her cousin survived the attack on the North Tower, and she helped organize the Dallas stair climb.
"I did not personally climb today, but watching those who just did, it’s pretty brutal and it’s very intense.” she said. “I have so much respect for them and what they're doing today. It's been amazing."
It's also a somber reminder that so many of the men and women climbing today must always be ready for the possibility of another dark day in history.
"People have to be ready. People have to understand these things are always a possibility again,” Portugal said. “There are people out there that are ready for it and people are training for it. And should it happen again, we're going to be ready."