I started participating in 9/11 memorial stair climbs in 2011. A fellow firefighter told me about the Denver Memorial Stair Climb for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation around June of that year. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and I had no idea that this endeavor would change my life forever.
Mike Schwartz was the firefighter who told me about the stair climb and would soon be my partner in crime to get the word out to everyone in Tucson, Arizona about the event. Like anything I do in my life, once I’m committed to doing something, I’m in 110 percent, all or nothing. So Mike and I decided to set a goal of raising a significant amount of money for the families of fallen firefighters. We used every resource we had available to get the attention of our goal and what we were doing to prepare ourselves to climb 110 stories with full firefighter gear and carrying equipment!
We reached out to local organizations to help spread the word. Mike and I were on the radio and local TV news channels. During our promoting and training, I discovered a very sad connection with Tucson and 9/11. During the tragedy on September 11, 2001 a birth was taking place in Tucson. Christina Taylor Green was born that day and even though she wouldn’t understand the tragedy that happened on the day of her birth till many years later. Like everyone who did witness the horrible event, she too would be connected by it. As Christina grew up she had two extraordinary passions in her life, baseball and American government. She was an exceptional baseball player and had great enthusiasm of learning about her local government. Little did she know that the two passions would be connected to tragedy.
One year Christina’s little league team made national news when they won the World Series. In an article, she expressed her desire to visit Ground Zero and see the construction of the memorial. Her interest in seeing the 9/11 Memorial wasn’t just because she was born on 9/11, but she got to know a firefighter who fell that shared a common passion with her and that was baseball. Firefighter Michael Cammarata of Ladder 11 was 22 when he made the ultimate sacrifice. He was born on October 5th, 1978 in Staten Island, New York. He grew up loving the game of baseball and just like Christina was a member of a World Series Little League Champion team. He always dreamed of being a firefighter. He was a probationary firefighter who had completed nine weeks at the fire academy and nine of his fourteen weeks of training at Ladder 11/Engine 28. He was the youngest firefighter that died when the towers fell.
On January 8, 2011 Christina was attending a public event to meet local government officials in a parking lot at local shopping center in Tucson. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was someone Christina eagerly awaited to meet. Christina wanted to be a politician when she grew up and the Congresswoman was an inspiration to her. Unfortunately they never met. A gunman opened fire at the Congresswoman and into the crowd that day. The gunman critically wounded the Congresswoman and twelve others, along with killing six people, including Christina. She was 9 years old and the youngest that died during Tucson’s tragedy.
A minor league baseball team called The Tucson Padres, decided to host a firefighter night during one of their home games. The game was to help promote the 9/11 Stair Climb and honor the memory of Christina Taylor Green. A portion of the tickets purchased for the event went towards our goal. Mike and I even used the event to get some conditioning for the event. We walked up and down the aisles in firefighter gear, including our Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA), for the entire game collecting donations! It was a heartwarming event and truly showed that the people of Tucson were behind Mike and I representing them at the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 in Denver for the memorial stair climb.
Every stair climb I have participated in since the first one in Denver, I have carried a picture of Christina that was given to me by her parents. It was her 4th grade school picture. Along with her picture, the first picture of one of the 343 firefighters that fell on 9/11 that I was honored to carry with me as I climbed 110 stories was Michael F. Cammarata.
Every time I have participated in a stair climb for the past eight years, I have climbed in their honor. Every event I’m blessed to share their stories and learn of another heroes that perished that day as I select another picture to carry with me as I climb. From Seattle to New York City, I’ve climbed several towers and have raised thousands of dollars for fallen firefighters families and the fight against cancer.