Firefighters climb Ashton Gate Stadium stairs in poignant 9/11 tribute

By Tristan Cork

Firefighters from around Bristol and Bath wearing their full kit will attempt to climb the equivalent height of the 110 storeys of the World Trade Centre in a poignant tribute to their colleagues who lost their lives in the 9/11 terror attack.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the World Trade Centre attack, which killed 343 firefighters who went into the burning buildings to save lives, more than 30 firefighters from Avon Fire and Rescue will embark on the challenge at Ashton Gate Stadium.

They’ll begin the climb in full firefighting kit, boots and breathing apparatus, at 8.46am - the exact time in New York that the first plane hit the first tower, and continue for 102 minutes - almost an hour and three quarters - until the moment the final tower collapsed.

READ MORE: The Bristol couple who watched Flight 175 pass over their heads

The brave firefighters are embarking on the challenge to raise money for the Fire Fighters Charity, with a JustGiving page set up especially for the challenge. They chose the staircase at the end of the Lansdown Stand at Ashton Gate Stadium which, as any Bristol City or Bristol Bears fan knows, is quite the slog doing just once with regular clothes on.

The firefigthters will have to go up and down 28 times to match the equivalent climb of the 110 storeys of the World Trade Centre, and it promises to be a tough ask, especially in all the restrictive and heavy gear, which weighs around 25kg.

“As I am sure many firefighters do, I vividly remember the horrendous 9/11 attacks and taking on this challenge, we’ll feel just some of the pressure that the responding firefighters felt on that awful day,” said the organiser, Rich Wheeler, who is the Watch Manager of White Watch at Bath Fire Station.

“It’s important for us to mark the 20th anniversary, in memory of the 343 members of the firefighting family who we lost in the emergency response and all others who sadly lost their lives.

“We’re extremely grateful for any and all donations as we raise money for The Firefighters’ Charity. I’d also like to say a huge thank you to all those at Ashton Gate for allowing us to mark the anniversary by taking on this challenge at the stadium,” he added.

Kerry James, the fundraising manager at the Fire Fighters Charity, said the poignant tribute and challenge was ‘incredibly moving’.

“Seeing everyone at Avon Fire & Rescue Service come together for this challenge, in memory of all those who lost their lives in the 9/11 terror attacks, is incredibly moving,” she said.

“On behalf of everyone at The Fire Fighters Charity, we’re so grateful for your support, which in turn will help us to continue delivering our services to thousands of beneficiaries in need. We wish you all the best of luck.”

Ashton Gate Stadium has a long track record of supporting blue light services - it recently hosted the coronavirus vaccination centre and is often lit up in blue to pay tribute to NHS staff.

Dave Storr, the head of safety and security at the stadium, said the stair climb challenge was an ‘extremely poignant’ way to mark the 20th anniversary.

“The stadium is proud to be able to help support this fundraising challenge,” he said. “Our emergency services consistently put their lives on the line to help us in our time of need.

“The pandemic has not only put extra pressure and stress on our emergency services, but it has meant that their usual fundraising events have had to be cancelled, now they need our support. “We’re delighted to be able to facilitate the stair climb challenge in our Lansdown Stand, it will be an extremely poignant way to mark the 20th anniversary of the Twin Tower Terror Attacks,” he added.

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