On Saturday, the Sovereign Condominium in Buckhead hosted the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, sponsored by FirstService Residential. The climb is part of a series all over the country that benefits the families of the country’s fallen firefighters. The 9/11 climb honors and remembers the New York City firefighters, police officers and emergency workers who made the ultimate sacrifice on that September day 17 years ago.
The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation is the beneficiary of the event which has raised millions over the past few years for firefighters’ families across the country. Last year alone, there were climbs in 25 states, with nearly 13,000 climbers and funds raised of nearly $600,000. Participants climb the equivalent of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center to benefit the FDNY, CSU, help defray of the cost of sending FDNY family members to Memorial Weekend and help fund the programs provided by the NFFF to support the families of our nation’s fallen firefighters.
In Atlanta, firefighters from across the state came for the climb. Henry County turned out with most participants and Athens-Clarke raised the most money. Athena Schwantes-Hodge was on hand as a representative from the NFFF. She was the proud wife of fallen firefighters Russell Schwantes and is happily remarried to Gregory Hodge. She talked a little about the mission of the NFFF and particularly its work with the children of those that died in the line of duty.
Prior to the start of the race, volunteers walked around and passed out lanyards with the pictures and names of the firefighters that were killed on 9/11. This reporter got this one:
Salvatore Calabro was a Brooklyn native and 14 year veteran of the FDNY when terrorists hit the World Trade Centers on that morning in September. On his way to meet a friend at the gym on Staten Island, he heard on the radio about the first attack. He arrived at his station, Ladder Company 101 in Red Hook, and rode into Manhattan with six other members from his firehouse. They never came back.
Calabro lived on Staten Island, in the house next door to his older brother Richard. They had pulled the fences up in the backyards and shared the space. He was very close to his family. In November of 2001, the Staten Island newspaper ran an obituary ahead of a memorial mass:
Always looking to make his company the best it could be, Mr. Calabro was willing to participate in drills any hour of the day or night.
“When you were in a crowd, you always looked for Sal’s face first,” said Mr. Manning. “When we had to attend departmental wakes or funerals, it was always better if Sal was there. We knew everything would be OK if he was there. We could really use him now.”
Mr. Calabro’s catch phrase was “You’re the best.”
“Whenever he said that, everyone would respond, ‘No, Sal, you’re the best.’ “
To learn more, or donate to, the NFFF, see here: https://www.firehero.org/