Firefighters climb in memory of 9/11

Pelham firefighters and Explorers, back row from left, Billy Earnest, Greg O’Connor, Buddy Ingleright, Pete Gonzalez, Everett Hazen, Clint Nicholson, Zach Reese, Chandler Rockett, Ricky King and back row from left, Jacob King, Brian Gonzalez, Logan Hazen, Solomon Earnest, Jonathan Rochester and Harrison Kahrig atop the Retirement Systems of Alabama building in Montgomery. (Contributed)

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

For Pelham Fire Department Lt. Ricky King, his son and several of his colleagues at the department, Alabama’s first sanctioned Sept. 11 memorial stair climb hit close to home.

During the event, which was held on Sept. 9 at Montgomery’s 22-story Retirement Systems of Alabama building, firefighters from across the state sought to climb a total of 110 flights of stairs – while wearing full turnout gear –  in memory of the firefighters who lost their lives during the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City.

In addition to their fallen comrades from New York, the local firefighters also climbed in memory of friends and loved ones who have passed away closer to home.

“In total, Pelham firefighters and Explorers climbed 1,122 stories that day,” King said, noting five Pelham firefighters completed all 110 flights of stairs. “It was an honor.”

King said he developed a personal connection to a New York firefighter after visiting the city in July.

“He had just been transferred to another station before the attacks. His whole engine company (Engine 201 from the old station) died,” King said. “We climbed in memory of those five guys.”

King and his son, a Pelham Fire Explorer, also climbed in memory of their uncle and grandfather, respectively.

“My dad and my uncle actually helped found the Chelsea Fire Department,” King said, noting one of his colleagues climbed in honor of Pelham firefighter Michael Oliver, who was killed in a car crash.

In addition to FDNY Engine 201, the Pelham firefighters also climbed in memory of FDNY Chaplain Mychal Judge and FDNY Battalion Chief Raymond Downey.

Participating in the climb were Pelham firefighters King, Billy Earnest, Greg O’Connor, Buddy Ingleright, Pete Gonzalez and Everett Hazen.

Pelham Fire Explorers Jacob King, Harrison Karhig, Chandler Rockett, Solomon Earnest, Brian Gonzalez, Zach Reese, Jonathan Rochester and Clint Nicholson also participated in the climb.

Ingleright, Gonzalez, Hazen, Rockett and Kahrig climbed all 110 flights of stairs.