PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Hundreds gathered in Panama City Beach on Saturday for an annual event to reflect on the tragic events of September 11th, 2001.
From firefighters, to law enforcement officers and EMT’s, to civilians, people came from around the country to participate in the 9-11 Memorial Stair Climb held at Edgewater Resort.
“We made a promise of never forgetting,” said local firefighter Terry Parris, who organizes the event each year. “This is just one symbol of showing that we’re keeping that promise.”
The participants climbed 110 flights of stairs, wearing a badge of someone who lost their life on 9/11.
“I’m not just climbing for just this person, I’m climbing for all the people who sacrificed something for that,” said Justice Wright, a firefighter and EMT with Walton County Fire Rescue.
“These men and women gave their lives that day,” said Alex Cohen, a Crestview firefighter who also came to participate in the event.
They were some of about 400 people who participated. Parris said they have had people come to do the event from 16 different states over the years to support the fundraiser, which raises money for the Emerald Coast First Responders Association and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
“You’re just very proud to come out here to honor them,” said Ian Murray, a firefighter out of Gulfport, Mississippi, who said his department comes to the event every year. “We never forget this day. These guys that are out here, these men and women with the police, fire and EMS, this is kind of like our day to remember what we do.”
“I remember exactly where I was that day and it’s a big inspiration to be a firefighter,” Cohen said.
For some, this was their first year participating in the climb, but it will be one of the last events run by Panama City Beach Stair Climb, announced by Parris at the event.
“We started on the 10th anniversary, next year is the 20th anniversary,” he said. “We just felt like it was time.”
He said it was a very hard decision, but while the stair climb only has one more year, the charity will continue to donate. In the meantime, he said he hopes people remember not only 9/11 but also the days that followed.
“I don’t ever want to go through another 9/11 attack, but I sure wish we would bring back 9/12,” Parris said. “That very next day, where the community just, [it was] an outpouring of love.”
Click here to learn more about the organization that puts on the event, and how to donate to the cause.