Updated & edited 9-13-2022 with information and photos from New Albany Fire Chief Mark Whiteside
Fire fighters from many north Mississippi fire departments climbed the equivalent of 110 stories of stairs to honor those who died on Sept. 11, 2001.
6th annual 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb
The 6th annual 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, held Saturday in the BancorpSouth Center in Tupelo, was a way for firefighters and the community to honor the 343 FDNY (Fire Department of New York) firefighters who died in a terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, New Albany Fire Chief Mark Whiteside said this week. The Tupelo event, one of many similar events held nationwide was sponsored by the Tupelo department’s ladies auxiliary.
Terrorists crashed two passenger jets into the twin towers of the World Trade Center at the south end of Manhattan the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Public safety workers from throughout the city rushed into the burning buildings. There were the 343 firemen, 72 law enforcement officers and eight EMTs who died in New York that morning 21 years ago.
Each 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb participant paid tribute to the fallen FDNY firefighters by climbing or walking the equivalent of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center. In Saturday’s event, firefighters walked the center’s 2,200 steps, three complete trips up and down the, symbolically completing the firefighters’ heroic, ultimately doomed, journey to save others. Saturday’s event saw firefighters show up in everything from street clothes to carrying up to70-plus pounds of full gear to make the memorial walk.
New Albany and Union County participation
Twenty two firefighters from New Albany and Union County departments turned out for the event, Chief Whiteside said.
Those New Albany firefighters on shift who couldn’t attend the Tupelo event walked the New Albany High School stadium stairs during their shift. They walked up and down the stadium steps, then around the stadium, completing the entire circuit seven times.
Whiteside pointed out that some of the New Albany and Union County firefighters who turned out for Saturday’s stair climb weren’t even born when 9/11 happened. “To them, 9/11 was just a history lesson, but Saturday’s stair climb helped them memorialize the sacrifice firefighters made that day,” he said.
The firefighters briefly turned on their personal alert devices twice during the stair climb, representing the times both towers fell.
The stair climb brought participation from more than firefighters. The event was open to the public, young and old alike. Anyone who wished to do the stair climb was welcome, and many did, Whiteside said.
While most of those who climbed 110 stories of stairs Saturday were firefighters, some were not.
For the family of New Albany Code Enforcement Officer Eric Thomas it was a family event. Thomas, who is also a trained firefighter, was joined by his wife Tammy and their son Will, age 16. Also completing the 110 stories with Eric, Tammy and Will was Eric’s father Ola Thomas. A retired engineer, Ola Thomas will be 74 years old in November.
“If you completed the event, either at BancorpSouth or New Albany High School, wearing street clothes or full turnout gear, you got the best reward there is —memorializing those who gave their lives 9/11,” Chief Whiteside said.
Names of firefighters who did the stair climb:
- Chief Mark Whiteside
- Deputy Chief Mark Sides
- Captain Allen Elder
- Captain Richie Bryant
- Lieutenant Shane Cowsert
- Firefighter Brady Shettles
- Firefighter Sam Murry
- Firefighter Heath Brown
- Firefighter Hunter Burke
- Building Inspector/Firefighter Eric Thomas
- Firefighter Shane McMillen
- Ingomar Firefighter CJ Hill
Family members who climbed with firefighters:
- Tammy Thomas
- Will Thomas
- Ola Thomas
- Becky Elder
- Madison Elder
- Kade Elder
- Lilly Elder
- Cohen White
- Samantha Brown
Family members there for support:
- Pam Sides
- Hannah Mitchell
- Liam Crocker
- Karlan Brown