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Firefighters climb Manitou Springs Incline in full gear for seventh annual 9/11 remembrance event

MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- On Sunday, firefighters, military, veterans, and community members made their way to the Manitou Springs Incline for an annual tradition.

Every year, firefighters climb the entire incline in their full 60 lbs. of gear in tribute to the 343 first responders who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.

The incline is just under one mile at 2,700 steps. The climb takes the group about two hours.

"I've never climbed the incline in normal clothes," organizer RJ Gerry said. "I've only climbed it in my gear."

The annual incline climb began seven years ago when Gerry, a firefighter, was stationed in Colorado Springs. He now lives on the east coast but continues to organize the event.

"It's nice to have that bond, it allows you to connect, it lets people know there's other people here that share the same feelings," Gerry said. "At the end of the day it's an honor, it's a privilege, and if it wasn't for these other firefighters here with me, I don't think I'd be able to push through. They provide motivation."

Since its inception in 2015 with only three climbers, the event has grown exponentially. It's attracted both firefighters and community members from across the country.

"Our department is incredibly honored to be part of this tradition," Manitou Incline Park Ranger Madison Peddy said. "After seven years, and 21 years in general, it's amazing to see this is still holding such importance for our community and for our country."

"I don't think I have words for how thankful and proud I am that it's reached as far as it has," Gerry said. "In the years to come, we can just hope it stays alive and we can remember the 343."

The incline is symbolic of the firefighters and first responders who lost their lives running up the stairs to reach those trapped inside the twin towers in New York City. This group does this climb every year to commemorate their sacrifice.

"At the time, being stationed here, I wanted to find something as comparable as I could," Gerry said. "The incline was the closest thing."

The group pauses for a moment of silence at the times of the attacks. The firefighters also make sure no one in the group gets left behind. They practice slowing down, taking breaks, and checking in on the entire length of the group. Organizers say this is an act of symbolism to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

"Our motto is never leave a firefighter behind," Gerry said. "So with that, we make sure everybody gets up."

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Natasha Lynn


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