9/11 Step Challenge raises money for police, fire departments


Oneonta firefighter Wesley Cox uses the stair climbing equipment in full turn-out gear as part of the 9/11 challenge. -courtesy Oneonta Fire & Rescue

Oneonta firefighter Wesley Cox uses the stair climbing equipment in full turn-out gear as part of the 9/11 challenge. -courtesy Oneonta Fire & Rescue

Sometimes never forgetting means stepping up to a challenge. The 9/11 Step Challenge at The Gym in Oneonta has participants climbing 110 stories in honor of those lost on Sept. 11, 2001.

“It gives us the opportunity to put into action our promise to never forget while also showing our support for our local first responders,” said Lu Branham, personal trainer at The Gym.

Each participant pays $9.11 to participate, and all proceeds go to the Oneonta Police and Fire departments. Oneonta Fire Department’s own Chance Payne and Wesley Cox completed the 9/11 Step Challenge a couple of days before the 20th anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center. Each participant climbs 110 stories as a representation of the 110 stories in the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

“I definitely had a sense of accomplishment when I completed this challenge,” said Gym member Suzanne McLendon. “I am humbled to complete it for the second consecutive year as a small way to honor the men and women directly involved in the events of 9/11 and the first responders, survivors, and those who lost their lives that day. I hope to continue doing it each year.”

The task of climbing 110 stories isn’t one to be taken lightly, according to McLendon. She says it not only takes physical determination, but also tests you mentally.

“Mentally, one of the rules I had for myself was that unless I absolutely had to I would not stop and take breaks,” she said. “This is a lot harder than it sounds. When you are doing the challenge and get to roughly the halfway point, it’s so tempting to stop and rest for a few minutes before continuing. However, I told myself that on 9/11 there were no breaks and I will not stop either unless I am physically unable to continue at any point.”

Others have already completed the 9/11 Step Challenge including Elizabeth Harvey, Susan Hand, Brett McAnnally, Jamie McAnnally, Annette Doss, Brandon Neal, Andrew Castillo, John Wisner, Hope Blass Key, and Chris Banks.

Branham, who also completed the challenge, said it was a privilege to honor those who had fallen on that day 20 years ago.

The 9/11 Step Challenge will continue through the end of this week. For more information, visit The Gym, located across from Oneonta High School on Ala 75, or call them at 205-762-0855.