PLAINFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — On Saturday morning, dozens of firefighters, police officers and first responders climbed the bleachers of Fifth Third Ballpark in memory of those who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
They say it’s a small way to walk a mile or two in the boots of those that went before them.
Lance Korhorn, a firefighter in Cascade Township, created the Grand Rapids Memorial Stair Climb seven years ago. He says 18 years after the attack, the emotions still run deep.
“Every year it’s a memory and it kind of brings you right back to that time,” Korhorn said. “It’s been 18 years and there are people joining today that weren’t alive at that time. So, we have to keep that memory alive for future generations.”
Passing down the tradition and memory is part of what brought father and son, Tom and Chase Ungrey, who serve the Grand Rapids Police Department and Algoma Township Fire Department, to the ballpark Saturday.
“Words just don’t accurately express the meaning to this as father and son,” Tom Ungrey said. “We need to keep the memory alive and do events like this so that the people that were my son’s age at the time know what it meant to the country.”
They do this by marching 110 flights of stairs, up and down every row at the ballpark four times, which they say equals the height of the World Trade Center.
“This is nothing in comparison to what they went through to rescue those inside those towers,” Korhorn said. “It is a humbling experience, to climb that height — something that they want through — was absolutely horrible. It’s definitely a tough experience.”
In addition, Korhorn came up with the idea to wear nametags and pictures of all 343 firefighters, police officers and EMS who perished that day.
This tradition hits home for Tom Ungrey.
“I purposely try to find someone with my same name, so this is the third Thomas that I’ve walked for,” Tom Ungrey said. “I try to put myself in his shoes, knowing that he stepped up to the call of duty and did what had to be done.”
The participants strapped on the boots, pants, coat and equipment, adding nearly 75-pounds to the body. The firefighters represented at the ballpark were sweaty, tired and worn out after simply replicating the feat.
“We owe this to them. Everyone does, all across the nation,” Tom Ungrey said.
The group, who consisted mostly of emergency responders hopes members of the public will accompany them on their climb next year.
“We need to keep the memory alive,” Korhorn said. “This is something that a lot of us that are here today, experienced and remembered. It’s a big impact every year, every day for a lot of these guys and for a lot of those who watched it all unfold at home. We can do this as a community.”