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7 things to know about 9/11 Stair Climb events

Learn more about the history of events where participants honor the 343 fallen FDNY members by climbing the equivalent of 110 stories

Every year, thousands of first responders around the country participate in 9/11 Stair Climbs, climbing or walking the equivalent of 110 stories, or 2,200 steps, often in full firefighting gear.

It is not a race.


Each stair climb participant is making the trek in honor of the 343 FDNY members who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, as 110 stories was the height of each World Trade Center building.

Learn the history behind this enduring, active tribute to the fallen.

1. The events raise funds for the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation

Money raised by stair climb events through registrations or donations goes toward NFFF programs benefiting the families of fallen fire service members. This includes mental health initiatives for surviving family members, outreach programs, college scholarships, summer camps for children of fallen firefighters, family retreat events and more.

2. The first stair climb was held overseas

According to the Association of Memorial Stair Climbs, the first 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb occurred in Parwan Province, Afghanistan, on Sept. 11, 2003, when Albuquerque (N.M.) Fire Department Lt. Charles Cogburn ascended a two-story building 55 times wearing body armor, a helmet and an M-4. Lt Cogburn returned home, and on the following Sept. 11 (2004), the climb was held in the United States for the first time at the 22-story Bank of Albuquerque, which firefighters climbed five times.

3. The NFFF connection was solidified in 2010

In 2005, five firefighters from the Denver Fire Department and Castle Rock Fire Department gathered at a high-rise building and climbed the equivalent of 110 flights of stairs. Five years later, the NFFF contacted the founders of the Denver event to develop a protocol to hold similar events across the country. The Nashville 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb was held on Sept. 11, 2010, and was the first to fall under the NFFF umbrella of stair climb events.

“We climb to ensure that the fallen firefighters of September 11 are never forgotten, we complete their journey through dedication, training and physical fitness,” reads the mission statement of the Denver 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.

We are thankful that the 9/11 stair climb events serve as a vehicle for firefighters across the country to gather and remember their fallen brothers

4. The public was invited to participate for the first time in 2009

In 2009, due to growing interest in the Denver 9/11 Stair Climb, which capped participants at 343, the Colorado 9/11 Stair Climb at Red Rock Amphitheatre was created. The event is open to the public, with attendance increasing every year. In 2016, more than 3,500 people attended the event, which raised more than $100,000 for the NFFF.

5. A template for 9/11 Stair Climb events was created in 2010

In 2010, officials from the NFFF met with the organizers of the Denver and Nashville, Tennessee, stair climbs to develop guidelines that would allow coordinators to run the event anywhere in the U.S.

6. 9/11 Stair Climbs are hosted by local volunteers

Anyone can host a stair climb in their community. While some are firefighter-led, many are organized by community leaders, local businesses and engaged citizens. For those looking to organize a stair climb even in their community, visit the NFFF website for information on how to coordinate the effort.

7. Millions have been raised for fallen firefighter families

As of 2022, more than $11 million has been raised to benefit the families of the fallen, the critical work of the NFFF and the fire service as a whole. Want to donate? Visit the NFF website.

This article, originally published in April 18, 2021, has been updated with new information.

Rachel Engel is an award-winning journalist and the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Engel seeks to tell the heroic, human stories of first responders and the importance of their work. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, and began her career as a freelance writer, focusing on government and military issues. Engel joined Lexipol in 2015 and has since reported on issues related to public safety. Engel lives in Wichita, Kansas. She can be reached via email.