MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan --
U.S. Marines, Japanese firefighters and air station residents came together for the 3rd annual stair climb in honor of the 9/11 victims at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Sept. 11, 2017.
Participants gathered for a brief period of instruction, followed by a period of silence, before taking to 108 flights of stairs as a tribute to all who were involved in the terrorist attack.
“This event was to honor not just the firefighters but everyone involved in the September 11th attack,” said U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Douglas Tiensvold, logistics chief with aircraft rescue and firefighting. “We have people here who had family or friends involved and others who just wanted to show their respect.”
Firefighter gear, to include boots, pants, a coat, oxygen tanks and bundles of fire hose, was available to participants who dared to take the challenge of suffering through the stair climb in the same gear first responders did. If willing to take things a step further, participants could carry simulated casualties as they trekked up and down the flights of stairs.
“The gear was to simulate the weight firefighters had to carry up the stairs of the buildings they were trying to clear,” said Tiensvold. “I really wanted everyone to feel what the firefighters felt and just be able to appreciate what they did that much more.”
Along with honoring 9/11 victims, the participants were able to take away more than a memory as they pulled to give encouragement when needed and see their fellow stair climbers through.
“I came out today to lead the way,” said U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Charles M. Maddox, expeditionary airfield services chief and staff noncommissioned officer in charge with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron. “My Marines are out here on one of the most sensitive days in recent history of our nation pushing themselves, and I was right there with them. It’s something we do so we never forget; we can’t forget.”
Along the staircases of the building, pictures from 9/11 were hung to display the chaos that fell on Americans that day and to showcase the heroic actions that were taken.
“Making my way up and down those stairs all I could do was look at the pictures,” said Maddox. “There were no fires, smoke or collapsing buildings around me like there was that day. No matter how bad I felt I couldn’t listen to mind and body, I had to keep pushing. What I was doing was nothing compared to what those Americans went through, not only the firefighters but the civilians who never signed up for what they did.”
Maddox said that it’s what Marines do. It’s a brotherhood, and it brings them back to their roots. The significance of coming out and building camaraderie around an event with a real purpose solidifies the bonds that are created.