WFD honors 9/11 first responders

Pictured, from left, are Waterloo Fire Department team members Dallas Beard, Sarah Blind, Brittany Rongey, Mike Ramsey, John Busch, Matt Blind, Kyle Buettner, Ben Kalbfleisch and Bruce Kohnz. (submitted photo)

Members of the Waterloo Fire Department went to Clayton, Mo., on Sunday to pay tribute to firefighters who died following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Seven Waterloo firefighters and two of their spouses did that by participating in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb. 

For the event, each participant wore a lanyard with the name and picture of a fallen firefighter and walked or climbed the equivalent of the 110 stories of New York City’s World Trade Center. 

“It’s really a good way to remember the firefighters who were lost on 9/11 and honor their sacrifice,” Waterloo firefighter Matt Blind said. “A lot of us were pretty young when that happened and it’s a good way to memorialize those firefighters who paid the ultimate price.”

The event raised money for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, which in turn will donate money to the families of fallen first responders. 

The event overall raised more than $36,000. The WFD team raised $1,925.  

“The community support for any event our fire department participates in is pretty overwhelming,” Blind said. “With it being our first year, we didn’t know what to expect so we set a $1,000 goal for our team. To surpass that, it was great to have the support to raise that money for the families of the victims.”

The money was primarily raised by friends and family donating to sponsor the participants. 

Exactly 400 people took part in walking or climbing, one for each firefighter, EMS personnel and police officer who died because of the terrorist attacks. 

Normally, the event is limited to 343 participants to honor only the fallen firefighters, but it was expanded this year. 

In addition to the participants, a large crowd came to support the event. 

“That was probably one of the most emotional things of it, that people were there not necessarily to participate but just to support a lot of the first responders who were doing this event,” he said. “To walk out of the stairwell onto the street and have a group of people applauding as you exit was pretty emotional.”

After finishing the 110 stories, climbers then rang a memorial bell and announced the name of the person they represented. 

While this marked the first time the WFD participated in the event, Sarah Blind, Matt’s wife, had participated the last few years through her employer. She switched jobs this year, but wanted to continue the tradition. 

So, the Blind family brought the idea to the WFD. 

“We knew about it and we wanted to get a team together this year so we went for it,” he explained. “We wanted to do something and this felt appropriate. It’s a physical challenge also, so that gets people excited.”

Although the WFD almost doubled its fundraising goal, Blind said he thinks it can improve in the future because the event will become a tradition. 

“We hope to make that number bigger because I definitely think we’re going to be doing it in the years to come,” he said. “We appreciate everyone’s friends and family helping to sponsor our team. Hopefully we can get the community more involved as the word spreads every year.”

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