Four Corners Stair Climb remembering September 11 still looking for participants

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The local chapter of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation is joining up with other chapters around the country to host the Four Corners 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, which will take place at Ricketts Park on Saturday, Sept. 11.

Nearly three dozen stair climb events are being held that day and over the weekend, at places like Soldier Field in Chicago, as well as Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside Denver, M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore and Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee.

The stair climb is a chance for participants to honor and remember the New York City firefighters who gave their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. Each participant pays tribute to a firefighter by climbing the equivalent of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center.

Participants help raise money, which goes to the NFFF, helping to fund programs which support families of local fallen firefighters and the Fire Department of New York Counseling Services Unit, according to local event coordinator Gary Groomer. 

"There are about 50 different events held around the country every year," Groomer said. "Two years ago, when we did it in Farmington, our event came in the top five as far as donations made across the country."

The local event already has drawn 110 participants set to be a part of the event at Ricketts Park, with donations already eclipsing $17,000. Groomer says he's looking forward to more wishing to be a part of the event.

"We've had as many as 250 people in the stair climb in Farmington in the past, so I'm hopeful we can get to as many as 343 participants this time around," Groomer said.

The number 343 is significant because that's the number of firefighters who died on Sept. 11, 2001 inside the World Trade Center.

The 9/11 stair climbs date back to 2005, organized by former firefighters in the Denver area. As word spread about the event, and with national coordination from the NFFF in 2010, the first stair climb outside Colorado was held in Nashville. 

In addition to the stair climb, there are other events that day at Ricketts Park for adults and kids who wish to participate.

Farmington Fire Department members Philip Logan, Gary Groomer and Jesse Hickey stand at the top of the Ricketts Park grandstands on June 5, 2017 to commemorate their role in the Four Corners 9/11 stair climb.

"There will be a 5K walk around the warning track at Ricketts, and there are other events for kids and adults who want to take part," Groomer said.

Climbing the stairs at Ricketts Park to reach the equivalent of 110 stories is not an easy task. Groomer estimated that it adds up to about 6 laps up and down the bleachers at the home of the Connie Mack World Series.

Not only is the stair climb an opportunity to pay respect to fallen firefighters and remember those who perished on Sept. 11, 2001, but for some, the preparation for the event has been a chance to get back on their personal fitness journeys.

"I needed a way to get back into shape and I saw this as an opportunity to really push and motivate me," said Lauren Mills, one of the more than 100 people who have volunteered to be a part of the stair climb. "For me, I saw it as a chance to show my respects as well as doing my part for those who believe in me."

Mills has raised more than $1,600 from sponsors and donors across San Juan County and is excited for the challenge.

"I can already tell the difference by doing my stair climbs throughout the day about my endurance and just the way I feel about myself," Mills said.

The 9/11 stair climb is an open event to the community, and those wishing to sign up as a participant or donor can find out more information at nfff.akaraisin.com/ui/fourcorners.

Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680