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Firefighters hike 110 stories to honor 9/11 victims
Firefighters inspired by the heroics of the New York firefighters
Gainesville firefighters Greg Hunsinger, left, Jay Grizzle and Justin Carpenter, right, recently traveled to Atlanta to climb 110 stories in the Westin Peachtree Plaza in memory of the firefighters killed in the World Trade Center on 9/11.

Remembering Sept. 11

To commemorate 9/11, the worst attack on American soil, The Times and is exploring the impact of the attacks and their aftermath, asking the question, "Are we safer today?" A special package of stories will be published on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011.

Please email your thoughts to us at Tell us in about 100 words how 9/11 has changed your life and whether you feel safer today?

We'll publish some of the responses in our print edition and put others online. Please include your name and telephone number for verification purposes. Your number will not be published.


Before their collapse, the World Trade Center's Twin Towers stood at 1,350 feet and 110 stories.

That's how many stories three Gainesville firefighters climbed in honor of the firefighters killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the towers.

Among the 2,753 people killed in the World Trade Center attacks, 343 were firefighters.

Greg Hunsinger, Jay Grizzle and Justin Carpenter represented the Gainesville Fire Department as part of a memorial at the Westin Peachtree Plaza in Atlanta on Aug. 24. A total of 215 firefighters from Georgia and throughout the country participated in the Memorial Stair Climb.

"I would say it only showed a piece of what those guys went through," said Justin Carpenter, referring to the firefighters killed in the World Trade Center.

Registration fees from the climb went to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation to support family members and co-workers of fallen firefighters.

While climbing the stairs, each firefighter carried a badge of a New York firefighter killed during the attacks.

"For me the reasoning is not only just remembering, but just kind of get a little bit of an idea of what those guys went through on that day," said Greg Hunsinger. "You talk about brave. I don't know what was going through their mind when they went in there not knowing if they were coming out or not."

Carpenter continues to wear the badge of the firefighter he honored during the Stair Climb.

In teams of five, the firefighters climbed 73 stories wearing their gear to the top of the plaza and then took the elevator back to the basement where they completed an additional 37 stories to total 110.

"We went in the stairwell and started up and went straight to 73 and came out in the Sun Dial Restaurant," Hunsinger said. "We went right back down to the ground and got right back in the stairwell."

Carpenter said he estimated they climbed a total of 2,220 stairs.

The last leg of the climb was when it became a real challenger, the firefighters said.

"About the second time going back up on about the 30th floor you could really start feeling it," Hunsinger said.

"The first rung was not bad," Grizzle said. "The rest is what got you."

While the firefighters climbed the equivalent height of the Twin Towers, they didn't carry an air pack, an extra bottle of air and tools, which the New York firefighters carried during the World Trade Center rescue efforts.

Chief Jon Canada estimated the New York firefighters carried an additional 100 pounds versus 40 extra pounds carried by firefighters during the Memorial Stair Climb.

The firefighters admit the climb was a challenge, but they said it would require much more training to be prepared for an event like 9/11.

"Just getting there you're worn out," Hunsinger said. "I can't imagine climbing that far and then having to fight fire and do all the things that they had to do," Hunsinger said. "It would be very difficult."

As far as how the New York firefighters accomplished what they did on 9/11, Hunsinger simply said "I don't know."

All three firefighters joined the fire department after the 9/11 attacks and each said they were inspired by the heroics of the New York firefighters.

"I think it probably did everybody," Grizzle said. "It made you think about that job more than you ever had before."

All three are hoping to attend a similar stair climb in 2012 at the Columbia Center in Seattle to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.