AUSTIN - The longest running memorial stair climb continued on the 16th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in Austin.
Firefighters from the Austin, Travis County, Luling and Manchaca fire departments made the annual Memorial Stair Climb at the Pleasant Valley Drill Tower in southeast Austin Monday.
The annual tradition started right after the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The Austin Fire Department said it is the first agency in the country to do such a tribute.
The tradition is done in silence.
Not a word among firefighters as they walked up the concrete steps.
A silent climb, however, didn't mean it was quiet.
You can hear metal clanging against metal as each firefighter wore dog tags -- dog tags with the 343 names of the New York firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11. Names such as John Collins. His black and white picture, along with the 342 others, are up on display by the entrance of the tower.
Many firefighters climbed 110 stories up the World Trade Center before they died.
"It strikes my heart and it still makes me sad," said Austin Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr.
This Memorial Stair Climb is 25-year-old Aaron Henderson's first. Henderson is the second youngest in his cadet class.
He was just a kid when the terror attacks happened.
"Growing up, I had my dad as a firefighter -- it didn't mean too much to me," he said. "Like I always knew he had a cool job -- he got to drive around in a cool fire engine who I really looked up to but then when 9/11 happened that's when the seriousness of the job set in. So it's nice being able to come here 15 years later and be able to do it myself," Henderson said.
Dozens of children from Eden Park Academy joined the firefighters, filling up plastic cups of water and handing them to the firefighters when they take a break from the climb.
Ten-year-old Charlie Duhon wanted to help.
"It means to me a lot because they've done so much for us and so doing stuff for them makes me happy," she said.
She may not fully comprehend the gravity of what the firefighters are doing yet. But she did her part -- however small -- fulfilling a job the New York firefighters will never be able to.
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