Firefighter helmet file photo by Blackburn News

CK firefighters gear up to honour fallen first responders

Six local firefighters will head to New York City this spring to remember the first responders who died on September 11, 2001, or from post 9/11 from related illnesses.

Jon Benoit is one of the six firefighters from Chatham-Kent who will participate in the annual New York City Memorial Stair Climb on May 4.

“In the emergency services community, we’re all just one big family so it’s like you’re walking for you’re brother and sisters,” he said.

The event involves several first responders climbing 80 floors — in full gear — of the Three World Trade Center, which overlooks ground zero.

“[We’ll be] wearing our full firefighter bunker gear with an air pack on our back so it’s roughly about 70 pounds of extra weight that we’re going up 80 floors with,” said Benoit. “We’ve all just been trying to do our own training, walking up and down a lot of stairs, getting ready for it.”

Benoit said this will be a first-time experience for the six who are going to this particular memorial stair climb.

“It most likely will be a very humbling experience,” he said. “It’ll give us somewhat of a thought process of what [the 9/11 first responders] felt like and what they did.”

Before the group of six go to NYC, they are participating in some local fundraising events.

The first fundraiser will be a skating event on April 4 at the Thames Campus Arena from 7 p.m. until 8 p.m. The second fundraiser will be at the Sobey’s in Chatham on April 27 at 9 a.m. where residents are asked to donate in a “boot drive”. Money raised from the fundraisers will be split between A Soldier’s Journey Home and the local Canadian Blood Services, where the donation will be made in Jocelyn McGlynn’s name. McGlynn is a 21-year-old student from Chatham who is currently receiving stem cell treatment at a medical centre in the U.S.

“We just thought it would be good to raise some money and awareness for not just [Jocelyn] but everyone else going through that same type of [illness],” said Benoit.

A combination event for the fundraisers and the upcoming stair climb will kick off with an event Friday morning at 10 a.m. at the fire station in Chatham, located on Second Street.