Sunday was a day of remembrance in Broome County as the firefighters and civilians climbed more than 100 stories to honor the hundreds of firefighters who lost their lives on September 11th, 2001. Elyse Mickalonis explains how this year they got to know the men they climbed for a little better, thanks to someone who survived the attacks.
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- Tackling 110 stories is no easy task but add full firefighter gear to the mix and it becomes a grueling...yet rewarding experience.
"Doing it without the additional 50, 60 pounds of gear is hard enough, doing it with all the equipment on, you have a much better respect for what the men and women went through that day,” said Brian Kozel, Binghamton Fire Department.
Cpt. Adam Bowman, Chenango Fire Department, added, "The sweat builds up in your gear and the longer you go the heavier it gets."
This year marked the 3rd Annual 9/11 Stair Climb in Binghamton, the only event of its kind in New York state, and while this year civilians and firefighters worked together to honor their brothers who died during the September 11th terrorist attacks.
It’s Retired FDNY firefighter Dan Potter who had the real honor of knowing 60 of the 343 firefighters who fell with Twin Towers 12 years ago.
"They came to work, they all had their families and ideas that they wanted to do, a future for them and now they’re gone and it’s been 12 years,” said Dan Potter, Retired FDNY.
Climbers wore photos of the firefighters who did not make it home that day, strangers to them, but not to Potter.
"Tommy Hannafin was a fantastic basketball player in school, could have been a professional. A lot of these guys who run up with Tommy Hannafin’s picture on they realize what sort of a firefighter he was. And I think that’s important. If you’re going to come out and dedicate yourself, you need a little background of who you’re running for,” said Potter.
On September 11th, 2001, Potter was supposed to be off-duty. His wife Jean was on the 81st floor of the first tower that was struck.
"The plane hit right above her head, they were thrown out of their chairs,” said Potter. “She was trying to make her way down and I was trying to make my way to her."
Potter traveled from Staten Island to Manhattan to find Jean. He was at Ground Zero during both tower collapses.
A photo was taken of Potter after the second tower crumbled when he was grieving the loss of his wife. On a normal day, Potter would sit there and wait for Jean to walk two blocks home to him, but on 9/11, they were reunited at a fire station on Canal Street. She had survived.
"I was covered in gray, sweat and water, she was covered in gray too and she said, ‘Where were you?’ and I said, ‘You don’t want to know,’” said Potter.
Potter says it was by the grace of god that he and his wife survived...and although that day took away many coworkers and friends...he’s holding onto and sharing the memories of those who did not.
Since the attacks, Jean Potter has written a book about her experience on 9/11...
For more information on that, head to: 'http://bookstore.authorhouse.com