MICHIGAN CITY — 110 flights of stairs is an intense climb that would tire anyone out, but it means so much more on a day of remembrance.
While a small crowd of people listened to speakers during Wednesday morning's 9/11 Remembrance Program at the LaPorte County YMCA gymnasium, firefighters from the Michigan City Fire Department, dressed in full firefighting gear, walked up and down stairs in the top bleachers of the gym.
Up and down they went, for more than 40 minutes, on the stairs surrounding the gym. Students in A.K. Smith Career Center’s fire science class accompanied firefighters in their steady stream of steps. The students participated with dedication, but slowly dropped out of the climb until only a few remained. Some of the firefighters removed gear as they went — helmets and jackets — but all soldiered on in a tradition meant to honor the 343 firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty 18 years ago on 9/11.
Maj. Dale Simmons of The Salvation Army of Michigan City, along with Mayor Ron Meeks and Fire Chief Randy Novak, spoke about "one of the most difficult times in American history."
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"We are America and we will always prevail, do you believe that?" he said to cheers and applause.
Keynote speakers Maj. Becky Simmons has only spoken about her 9/11 experience twice in public before, "but it's something I'll never forget." She was part of the disaster relief effort in the weeks after 9/11, working out of a tent at Ground Zero to provide assistance to recovery efforts after the fall of the World Trade Center towers.
"There are no words, there are no words for terrorism," Simmons said. "Because terrorism is an act against innocent people that has no rationality..."
In the parking lot at the close of the event, the American Legion Post 37 provided a 21-gun salute and played taps before Pipe Major Craig Brooks of the Celtic Guard Academy closed the ceremony with a rendition of "Amazing Grace" played on bagpipes.