precisely 8:46 a.m. on Sunday morning, roughly 50 volunteer
firefighters, U.S. Coast Guard personnel, and National Park Service
rangers began a trek to the top of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in full
gear to honor the fellow firefighters and first responders who lost
their lives 15 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001.
in its fourth year, the annual trek is a display of solidarity, and a
way for present-day firefighters and other first responders to
pay homage to the heroes of 9/11. The men and women who made the trek
to the top were supported by a continually growing crowd of family
members and loved ones, as well as lighthouse visitors who were in
attendance for the event.
a small way for us to show our remembrance, and to show that we will
never forget,” said Carroll Midgett Jr., the assistant chief of the
Buxton Volunteer Fire Department. “Every fire department on Hatteras
Island is here, and we have members and chiefs from all across Dare
County and even from Virginia. [This event] is not about us, but about
remembrance – we are all here to remember and honor our first
start time of the climb – 8:46 – signifies the exact time that American
Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade
Center in New York City -- a point that Buxton's deputy chief, Jeffrey
Del Monte, made clear as he addressed the assembled crew and spectators
right before the climb.
appreciate everyone being here today,” he said. "If we walk away from
here with nothing but [a pledge to] ‘never forget,’ I think we did our
trek to the top of the 257 stairs in full gear is an arduous one, but
just a few minutes after the climb started – at 8:53 a.m. – the first
wave of firefighters could be spotted on the lighthouse balcony,
raising an American flag. A second American flag was raised a minute
later as more firefighters and climbers reached the top, and both were
clearly visible to the appreciative crowd below.
A number of personnel who made the lighthouse climb were involved or close to Ground Zero when terrorists attacked the country.
Buck, who was one of four Coast Guard personnel who made the climb, was
aboard the second Coast Guard boat on the scene in New York City on
“It’s important for us to be a part of this community event, and to show our respect,” he said.
Faranello of the Frisco Volunteer Fire Department was on a rig outside
of New York City on 9/11, and part-time Hatteras islander Mike Regan –
who was recently profiled in the Island Free Press – was a first
responder at the Pentagon on the morning of the attacks as a
firefighter who led a FEMA search and rescue team.
David Hallac of the NPS Outer Banks Group also participated in the
climb and said it was an important day for the Park Service and the
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse site as well.
a real honor to be here,” he said, “and there’s something special about
the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse being the host for this event. The
lighthouse watches over us… just as all the local firefighters watch
over us. It’s very appropriate.”
line of island fire trucks remained stationed on the outskirts of the
lighthouse throughout the event, and the organization of the climbers
was seamless and corresponded perfectly with the 8:46 start time.
ambulance and two Dare County Emergency Medical Service responders were
also stationed just outside the lighthouse in case assistance was
needed. A light breeze brought relief to the crowd, but with
temperatures hovering around 80 degrees, the breeze was little
consolation for the firefighters who were in full gear – many with
heavy breathing equipment on their backs.
wearing of the uniform is also a deliberate and significant part of the
event, as it recognizes the first responders of 9/11 who also made
their way up the stairs of the World Trade Tower in full, heavy gear.
will definitely be a difficult climb, but by looking around and talking
to these firefighters, there will be no problem. They’re up to the
challenge,” noted Hallac.
multiple Hatteras Island fire stations were in attendance for the
climb, a number of off-island stations participated as well, including
fire departments from the towns of Kill Devil Hills, Duck and Southern
Strother of the Southern Shores VFD stated that participation in the
event was an honor for firefighters across Dare County. “It’s important
for everybody to remember what happened, and not forget the
firefighters that were lost.”
first waves of firefighters to complete the climb walked out of the
lighthouse at 9 a.m., and were greeted with applause and cheers from
the crowd. Bottled water and Gatorade was provided and gratefully
accepted, and the climbers waited in the shade for their fellow
personnel to descend.
last person to complete the climb was retired Buxton VFD member Ray
Gray, who is recovering from a severe brain injury. He came down at
9:33 a.m. and was greeted by a loud round of applause by his fellow
firefighters and the waiting spectators.
the climb, organizer Jeffrey Del Monte addressed the crowd before
asking for a moment of silence to honor the fallen heroes of 9/11.
“We are dedicated to ‘never forgetting,’ every year,” he said. "And we hope the rest of America is too.”
and Regan, who retired from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue
Department in 2011 after 34 years as a firefighter, also addressed the
crowd and firefighters in attendance.
bravest thing [the heroes of that day] ever did was put that uniform
on,” said Regan, noting that the participants were wearing the uniform
crowd dwindled after the event, with firefighters still in uniform
joining their families – many with VFD or colorful fire truck shirts
on, depending on their age – and making their way home.
after noon, the Cape Hatteras Baptist Church in Frisco sponsored a
buffet lunch -- with food donated by local restaurants -- for all first
just as it has every year, the annual remembrance of 9/11 left its
impression on the crowd, and garnered an appreciation across the board
for the local men and women who continue to “put on their uniform” and
make a point to remember the day.
been [a firefighter] for 34 years, and it was an honor to be with the
guys who are doing it today,” said Regan after the event. “…Ray Gray
was a great inspiration today – and so was everyone who waited for the
last man down… I hope they continue this for years to come.”
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