They were barely old enough to remember the Sept. 11 attacks, but that didn't stop two volunteer firefighters from climbing 110 simulated flights of stairs Monday in honor of the first responders who risked their lives 16 years ago.
Zachary Long and Garitt Pickford, volunteers for the New Hanover Volunteer Fire & Rescue Services Department in Montgomery County, went to a Planet Fitness gym wearing their firefighter gear and climbed 110 floors using gym equipment.
“It’s kind of like a firefighter challenge to represent the amount of work the 343 firefighters that perished on 9/11 went through in order to help,” Long told NBC10.
Long’s girlfriend, Melissa Garris, recorded the two as they "climbed" and made a touching video tribute.
Long, who is now 23, was 7-years-old when planes struck New York City's World Trade Center. Long recalled “a school teacher walking into the room and my grade school teacher kind of told us what was going on.”
Long visited the New York memorial recently with his girlfriend and her family. He says he felt the “impact of everything that went on that day."
“I love my country a lot. I would hate to see all those guys ever forgotten for all that they went through and all that they sacrificed. We had several people walk by us saying, ‘How many more stairs do you have to go?’" Long said.
“You definitely felt the burn after a while,” he added.
Neither he nor Pickford trained prior to the challenging task. Pickford threw up half way through the 45-minute climb, Long said, who even took Pickford's air tank for part of the "climb" to help his friend.
Long told NBC10 he turned to the victims they were honoring for inspiration to finish the climb.
"There are things that we take for granted and there were points during the climb where I thought I couldn't make it," Pickford said. "But then I remembered 343 men did that climb knowing they might not come home and that is what pushed me to get through the climb to honor them."