Heat didn’t stop the staff of RJ Donovan Correctional Facility (RJD) from climbing stairs in remembrance of the 22nd anniversary of 9/11.
On Sunday, Sept. 10, firefighters, police officers, military, and civilians gathered at Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel to climb the equivalent of 110 floors. The number is significant as it’s the same amount of floors at the World Trade Center.
Each participant wore a lanyard bearing the name and photo of a fallen 9/11 emergency responder:
- 343 Fire Department of New York
- 23 New York Police Department
- 37 Port Authority
- and eight emergency medical services staff.
Sponsored by the RJD Fire Department, Team CDCR Fire included
- an Associate Warden
- Fire Captains
- Correctional Counselors
- Correctional Officers
- as well as free staff, retirees, family, and friends.
The RJD Fire Department also offered the opportunity for custody staff to wear firefighter turnouts during the climb. This allowed them to experience what it feels like to wear 20-pounds of firefighting gear.
RJD Investigative Services Unit Lt. J. Coronado was eager to volunteer.
“I am not one to back away from a challenge, so I accepted. During the stair climb it opened my eyes to what most firefighters experience wearing their turnouts. I gained a great amount of admiration for all our firefighters do on behalf of our communities. And, I will forever be grateful,” Coronado said.
Lt. J. Coronado: ‘Climb for Bart’
Coronado also carried with him a special tribute to honor the memory of ISU K-9 Bart. The K-9’s recent unexpected passing touched the hearts of the RJD staff.
“I decided to dedicate the stair climb to K-9 Bart and printed out a picture of him I carried around my neck,” he explained. “When the burning in my thighs and calves and the overwhelming heat from wearing the turnouts began to wear on me physically and mentally, I would yell out to my teammates, ‘Climb for Bart!’ This gave me and my teammates the motivational push to keep going.”
The team’s efforts paid off for the event sponsors as well. Funds raised at the San Diego 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb benefitted Firefighter Aid, a nonprofit organization providing charitable assistance to firefighters and families in crisis. The organization also promotes awareness of firefighter health and safety issues.
Team CDCR Fire raised $7,194 for Firefighter Aid.
As a result of their strong fundraising efforts, Team CDCR Fire earned a position as an Honor Team in this year’s climb.
Honor Teams are specially selected to represent a pivotal moment of 9/11: carrying U.S. flag up the stairs in honor of Flight 77, the plane that crashed into the Pentagon.
“The world we live in today has so many distractions, it can be easy to focus on things less important,” shared Associate Warden M. Palmer. “The San Diego 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb provides an opportunity to reunite Americans and remind us of the great loss we all suffered, yet through unity, we are stronger than ever.”
When asked to describe the stair climb experience, Palmer responded, “Powerful. Simply powerful.”