KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Firefighters from across the country will be in Kansas City this weekend to commemorate the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by following in the footsteps of fallen first responders.
September 11 marks the anniversary of a day many of us promised to never forget. The day 343 firefighters lost their lives.
"You do all you can to keep the tears in because it just hits home," said Erik Kallauner with the Olathe Fire Department.
Kallauner is just one who will fight back tears while honoring New York’s bravest this weekend.
"We're all in it together, it's a family," said Kallauner.
Dressed in full gear, 343 firefighters will climb 110 flights of stairs to pay tribute to their New York family who braved the climb up 16 years ago.
"Halfway through it you're like I don't think I'm going to be able to finish it, but then you look up and you see a picture on the wall and you're like, you remember it's not about us, it's about them," said Kallauner.
During the climb on Sunday, each person will carry a photo of a firefighter killed in the rescue efforts that day. For the 7th year in a row, Kallauner said he’ll hold the same photo close to his heart.
"I was on our engine 54 here for Olathe Fire, so a bunch of us that climbed the first year, we chose engine 54 for FDNY, and I chose Paul Gill," said Kallauner.
After searching to learn more about his FDNY brother, Kallauner said he was able to find his family and reach out to his mother.
"I sent a message saying, you know, I'm honored to be able to climb for Paul, get him to the 110th story because that's the whole purpose of the stair climb, and make sure everyone gets to the top," said Kallauner.
In every text or email response Kallauner receives, he said he can feel the heartache.
"We're all brothers. We all go to the same stuff and not knowing him I know that he would have my back and I would have his," said Kallauner.
This year’s 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb will take place Sunday, September 10. The opening ceremony will begin at 8:20 a.m. at the Town Pavilion in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.