Paying tribute to 10 years ago

A firefighter with the Hoover Fire Department walks into a pool of light in a Wynfrey Hotel stairwell during training at the hotel on Sept. 2. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

By AMY JONES / Associate Editor

HOOVER — For the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Hoover mayor Tony Petelos will come closer to understanding those who gave their lives than ever before.

Petelos is accompanying 11 Hoover firefighters to Panama City, Fla. to participate in the first 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, hosted by Panama City Fire and Rescue. The event will be Sept. 10, and is open to emergency personnel and citizens from across the country.

While there, the mayor, along with the firefighters, will climb the equivalent of 110 stories while wearing full gear, carrying water hoses and other fire equipment. The number of stories has special meaning, as the World Trade Center towers were 110 stories high.

Petelos said he decided to go on the trip after hearing firefighters talk about the event and what it meant to them. However, that meant hours of tough training.

“I started training back in July with them, and I can do it. I know I can do it now,” he said. “They’re thrilled to have the mayor come along with them.”

Scott Watkins, an apparatus operator with the Hoover Fire Department, said he respects the mayor for taking time to participate.

“He is taking the time to be over there (training) early in the morning before the workday, and he has the respect of all of us,” Watkins said. “We’re glad to have him on.”

Watkins said training for the event has helped the firefighters get into shape, but for those from Hoover, remembering 10 years ago is the important part.

“We want to make sure that people remember what took place and what these guys sacrificed doing their job,” he said. “Those were our brothers in the fire service, and we want to draw attention to them and honor them.”

Watkins said every firefighter knows the dangers, but it’s all in a day’s work.

“Someone that has a white collar job, they put on their business suit every day, but putting on our fire gear is what we consider to be our business suit, and we just go and do our job,” he said.

Petelos said 9/11 is a day that must live on in the country’s memory.

“This is a way to pay tribute to all the public safety persons who died that day, and all the civilians who died that day,” he said. “Just like December 7, Pearl Harbor, there are some things this country never needs to forget.”