Many of the New York first responders who were on duty September 11, 2001 never made it to the top of the Twin Towers, standing at 110 stories each.  
Approximately 343 firefighters, 70 police officers and nine emergency medical technicians lost their lives on that day during what is remembered as one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in human history.
On Sep. 7, 2019, four Ardmore
firefighters participated in the 110 flight stair climb in Oklahoma City  while two Ardmore police officers climbed to the top of the Renaissance Tower in Dallas, Texas, in their honor. This was the first year the Ardmore Police Department participated in the annual 9/11 Memorial Climb, which began in 2010.
“I think we were one of a handful from Oklahoma to go down to Dallas to participate,” said Ardmore Police Department Sgt. Chris Mata.
The participating first responders were each given a tag with the identification of one of the individuals who died Sep. 11 to wear around their neck during the climb.
Sgt. Chris Mata climbed in honor of New York Port Authority Police Officer John Levi and Officer Ian Naylor climbed in honor of Police Officer Mark Ellis, NYPD Transit Bureau District 4.
“You feel close because you participate for them and once you reach the top you feel like you’ve done something in their honor,” Mata said. “It’s a cool feeling.” At the 110th floor of the Renaissance Tower, climbers ring a bell to signify that they and the individual on their ID made it.
Officer Levi had been with his agency for 17 years, Mata said. On Sep. 11, Levi worked an overtime shift so that he could have the weekend off to spend with his fiancé.
“When one of the planes struck the towers, he immediately ran to the area and started helping, trying to rescue people out of the building and perished that day— I believe in the second tower,” Mata said.
Levi’s story is just one of countless other stories from that day — many of which go unheard, Mata said. “There’s numerous other people there where you hear a bunch of stories about them teaming up and going in without any regard for their own life, just trying to save others.”
Ardmore Firefighter Kelton Kelch, along with Kyle Walls, Dallas Scribner and Shane Woolly also made the climb in honor of the 343 fallen firefighters. Kelch said he climbed in honor of New York firefighter Andrew Bruun, who had just joined the agency in May, 2001 after working for the New York Police Department.
“It’s eye-opening to think about,” Kelch said. “It was just another day for those guys and all of the sudden all hell broke loose. They had no idea what they were going into or what was about to happen.”
The Ardmore firefighters wore their bunker gear and air packs, which weigh around 50 pounds, and Kelch said he also carried a firehose with him during the climb.
“On 9/11 they were easily hauling up 100 pounds of gear and they were fighting people trying to work their way down,” Kelch said. “Even after making the climb, they were going to have to fight fire — I can’t even imagine what it was like on that day.”
Even without the raging fire and the thick amounts of smoke moving in on them, the climb was difficult to make, Mata said. As time passes, sometimes people forget the significance of Sep. 11, he said.
The 9/11 Memorial Climb is a reminder of the sacrifice many first responders made that day while trying to save others, Mata said.
“It was a great experience to be a part of and to remember those first responders that perished that day,” Mata said. “Hopefully in the future, I’d like to participate again. There are definitely other people in this agency that would like to participate, that way we can maybe keep the tradition going on.”