POSTED: Saturday, September 8, 2012 - 9:08pm
UPDATED: Saturday, September 8, 2012 - 9:19pm
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — Each year, Baton Rouge residents gather to remember the lives lost in New York, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon that day, as well as the men and women who died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For the second consecutive year, in what is becoming an annual tradition, local firefighters added their own form of remembrance.
Firefighters, police officers, members of the Navy and ROTC, as well as blue and gold star families, were part of the crowd that gathered at the USS Kidd Museum Saturday morning.
They met to honor the five Louisiana natives who died on September 11, 2001, and those who fought in the Middle East.
"I remember thinking it was some sort of media prank," said Dani Lamana, whose brother died in the Pentagon that day. "Maybe I was just hoping. It didn't take long to figure out that it wasn't."
Speakers told the stories about each of the five victims, explaining who they were and why their memories should not be forgotten.
After a 21 gun salute, the crowd headed onto the levee for a mile-long freedom walk. But when they got halfway down the route, firefighters from Baton Rouge, St. George, Prairieville, and Zachary all turned off and headed towards City Hall. They had 343 reasons to hold their own private, unique memorial.
Inside City Hall, they walked up all ten flights of stairs, then repeated the trip 11 times. They were honoring the firefighters who tried to climb all 110 stories of the World Trade Center in New York City, and they wore the names of their 343 colleagues who didn't make it out alive.
"The camaraderie's the best in the world," said Baton Rouge firefighter Damian Tourere of his fellow firefighters. "We take care of each other, we love each other."
September 11th changed the way firefighters (and all first responders) think about their jobs.
"However, this has only increased the resolve that we have to continue to provide the utmost care and protection to the citizens that we serve," said Baton Rouge Fire Department spokesman, Curt Monte.
Climbing all those stairs was tough work, even for well-conditioned firefighters.
"Going up, I just kept thinking, '343, 343,'" said Tourere. "That's what I thought about. I wasn't worried about the stairs, just put that in my head and kept walking."
It took the fastest of the firefighters more than 45 minutes to finish the climb. But when next September comes around, you can count on these men and women to once again look up the stairwell, ready to climb.