Americans will never forget September 11, 2001, as our country sustained tragic loss of lives in the attack on New York’s World Trade Center. On September 11, 2002, the City of Bryan sponsored its own Hometown Heroes celebration, honoring local fire, police, and emergency personnel with an evening of musical tribute and presentations of appreciation to our community’s finest. On September 11, 2012, the Bryan Fire Department will remember the day by hosting their Second Annual Memorial Stair Climb in the Varisco Building in downtown Bryan, beginning at 8:00 a.m.
Citizens who have never seen the Bryan Fire Department in action cannot fully comprehend what it’s like to have courage sufficient to face a fire, rescue loved ones (people and their pets), and face potential personal harm every time a siren goes off. In further support of their heroism, firefighters don heavy fire-resistant protective suits, better known as bunker gear, to do their jobs.
With that added bulk, they enter burning buildings to rescue lives, weighted down in extreme temperatures, pushing their own bodies to perform daily under stress. This is what they do daily, often without a lot of understanding from the public exactly what their world is like as they protect the community that is home to students, faculty and staff of Texas A&M University.
On September 11, 2001, brave New York City firefighters not only donned the bulky fire gear, they had to climb 110 stories of stairs to reach the top of the World Trade Center as they searched each floor for survivors, and removed the remains of those not as fortunate enough to escape the inferno orchestrated by Osama bin Laden and his followers.
So that our community never forgets nor fails to appreciate the freedoms we have today, members of the Bryan Fire Department will be climbing their own 110 stories of stairs, the exact height of New York’s former World Trade Center. City officials say this is “in memory of the first responders who attempted to make that same climb on September 11, 2001.”
Downtown Bryan’s historic office site, the Varisco Building, located at 219 North Main Street, is seven stories high. Once Bryan’s tallest building, at one time the Varisco Building was home to the offices of some of today’s most important Bryan business leaders, who began their careers five decades ago. It was, at the time it was built, considered “state of the art” for its underground electrical utilities placement.
As you walk inside, you’ll see period-perfect tiled floors and antique light fixtures that provide an instant trip back into time. The building is still a popular rental property today, with nice 350 square-foot offices available. Every inch of every floor is a sight that will become more-than-familiar to our local heroes next Tuesday.
Bryan firefighters, in full bunker gear, will climb to the top of the Varisco Building and back down again 15 times, with an additional climb to the top of the 5th floor and back again, making it the same 110-story height climbed by their New York colleagues.
Many will remember that local firefighters were part of Texas Task Force 1, the state’s elite search team, which was deployed to New York City following the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. This elite team has been in constant motion ever since its formation, last year being sent by the Governor of Texas to nearby Bastrop, to help combat the extensive fires that devastated that local community.
Tuesday’s Memorial Stair Climb will begin with a prayer by Father Sean Cox, rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church downtown, who serves as the Bryan Fire Department Chaplain, followed by a moment of silence in honor of the fallen heroes of 9-11-01. The emotion of the grievous losses will be underscored by “Amazing Grace” as played on the bagpipes by Bryan Firefighter Marc Murchison.
Bryan city officials note that “members of other law enforcement and fire departments have been invited to participate and it is anticipated that representatives of the Bryan Police Department and College Station Fire Department will participate in the event. Representatives of other agencies or volunteer fire departments may also participate.”
The next time you see a member of the Bryan Fire Department, remember the sacrifices made by these everyday heroes, and take a minute to thank them for their service to our community.
Last year, 30 firefighters participated in the inaugural Memorial Stair Climb, as seen in the accompanying photo. For additional information, contact Jordan Gallagher, B Shift Battalion Chief, City of Bryan Fire Department at 979-209-5976.