Vermont first responders honor 9/11 victims with silent stair climb

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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt.- First responders across the country spent time Wednesday remembering the lives lost during the September 11th terrorist attacks by putting themselves in the boots of New York City firefighters.

“We’re gearing up, putting our air packs on and grabbing tools,” said Chief Michael Bilharz, Vermont Air National Guard Fire.

Several first responders from around Chittenden County climbed a stairwell at the Burlington International Airport 18 times, it was equivalent to the 110 stories of the twin towers.

“You know 18 years is a long time, but it’s not too long to forget,” said Bilharz.

Radio transmissions reminded them of each attack along the way.

“We know from radio traffic that the firefighters made it to the 80th story,” said Bilharz. “That’s where the traffic ceased.”

“The level of fatigue is the same, climbing 110 stories is no easy job with 50 to 75 pounds of gear on,” said Chief Terry Francis, South Burlington Fire. “The advantage the firefighters has was they had a little bit of an adrenaline push.”

2,977 people were killed on 9/11 including 412 New York City first responders. 343 of them were firefighters.

“It’s important for us as first responders and as a community to always remember and never forget what happened,” said Bilharz. “It unified us as a country and it brought us closer together.”

In addition to remembrance, first responders are also encouraging vigilance.

“Be mindful that threat is ever present,” said Francis. “The general public are our first line of defense. So if they see something, they need to say something.”

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