On Sept. 11, 2001, first responders carrying heavy gear headed up the countless stairs of the World Trade Center - many of them knowing they might not return.
Now, two foundations formed after the 9/11 attacks are honoring the memory of those first responders with a stair-climb benefit - the first at the new One World Trade Center - to raise money for military veterans, the two groups announced Monday.
The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the Captain Billy Burke Foundation made the announcement at Burke's firehouse, Engine Company 21 in midtown Manhattan. Burke lost his life on 9/11, as did Firefighter Stephen Siller from Squad 1 in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Proceeds from the climb on May 17 will support service members who have been catastrophically injured in war and help educate children who have lost a parent in war.
Siller was off-duty when he ran with over 60 pounds of gear through the blocked-off Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center. "Our foundation couldn't be more honored to be chosen to hold the first stair-climb event at One World Trade Center," said his brother Frank Siller, foundation chairman and CEO.
Even though he knew that the south tower had already fallen, Burke chose to remain behind to rescue two workers, one in a wheelchair.
"Billy would be humbled and grateful to know that in his memory funds are going to be raised to assist military heroes" and their children, said his brother Michael Burke, a foundation board member.
Climbers will go to the 90th floor, taking 180 flights of stairs.
There's also a "virtual stair climb" — using elevators — for people who want to participate but are not able to handle the stairs.
Participation is limited to the first 1,000 people to register. Registration will close on Sunday, May 10, or when capacity is reached.
The entry fee for all climbers, including virtual climbers, is $100. There's also a $250 minimum fund-raising requirement.