North Platte firefighters retrace steps

Firefighter/EMT Justin Thompson, right, and his dad, Fire Chief Dennis Thompson, honor Sept. 11 first responders by climbing the equivalent of 110 stories on the stair-stepper machines at Anytime Fitness. Wednesday was Justin Thompson’s second time doing the commemorative climb; he did it alone Tuesday and decided to do it again as other firefighters wanted to participate.

North Platte firefighter Justin Thompson went by himself to Anytime Fitness Tuesday to climb 110 stories in full fire gear on the stair-stepper machine to honor Sept. 11 first responders. That inspired other firefighters to join a day later to do the climb themselves.

This has been a popular demonstration for firefighters to do on Sept. 11, as rescuers had to climb 110 stories up the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001, he said.

Thompson made the climb a second time Wednesday, along with North Platte Fire Chief Dennis Thompson, North Platte volunteer firefighter Taylor Barton, and Sutherland firefighter Casey McGeeney. Justin Thompson said firefighters Jeremy Condon, Casey Roy, Jeff Hankla and Tom Staton were also completing the workout at the fire station.

“The saying has always been never forget,” Thompson said. “We always do a great job at remembering all the people that lost their lives, but what we do tend to forget is on Sept. 12 we woke up and we weren’t one team versus the other team anymore, we were all in this.”

Thompson said that it made him realize we need to remember to love each other.

“The men and women who walked those stairs that day went up with tools, axes, fire extinguishers, extra air boxes, then they came down carrying people,” Thompson said. “For us to get in our gear is the minimum we could do to say, ‘Hey, we remember the sacrifices you made.’”

With no building in North Platte reaching 110 stories, Thompson said he’s not used to climbing that many flights of stairs at one time and his legs were sore.

“The helmet starts to wear on your neck, and the heat, you can’t get it off your body so you overheat pretty quickly,” Thompson said. “The big thing to remember is we are doing this as a memorial, but the men and women who did this on that day didn’t think about how hot they were, they thought about: ‘Get to the next person, get them down.’”

Thompson said when he was on the stair stepper he thinks about the men and women who responded to the towers on Sept. 11, and wonders if he could of had the same courage, conditioning and determination.

“We do have our down time, but we make a decision to risk everything at any moment,” Thompson said. “You see it in the blink of an eye that I might not go home today, and you think about your family, and all the things that are at risk, and you make the choice to still go in.”

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