9/11: Bay Area firefighters and Sikhs join forces to put an end to hatred


Sikhs from Fremont, Calif., serve food on Sunday, Sept. 11 at the Transamerica Pyramid to support The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. “We are here today to commemorate 9/11, support firefighters, and spread awareness of hate crimes” said Jot Sing, a member of the United Sikh Organization.

Sabrina Werby, Legend staff writer

More than 200 firefighters from the Bay Area, Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada, along with Bay Area civilians, gathered on Sept. 11 at the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco to climb 853 feet to the top, in a tribute to the first responders who died in the 9/11 attacks.

The first responders on Sept. 11, 2001 carried over 60 pounds of equipment up to the top of the 1728 feet tall World Trade Center. By contrast, those firefighters who climbed on Sunday were weighed down by a relatively light load of 28 pounds of equipment, including helmets, belts, tools and fire-resistant clothing.

Still, climbing the Transamerica building “was exhausting,” says Russian River firefighter Anthony Nash. Had he and other firefighters at the Pyramid been at the World Trade Center towers, “there’s no way we could have fought fire at the top,” he said.

“It really put in prospective what (the first responders) did,” said San Francisco firefighter Conrad Arenez.

The American Lung Association, along with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, sponsored the stair climb to remember the lives lost on 9/11 and to raise awareness regarding the health implications facing survivors today.

The United Sikh Organization (USO) was also present to assure an awareness of another kind.

Since the attacks 10 years ago, “there have been a lot of hate crimes,” said USO member Jot Sing. A USO table featured young women serving free food, including rice, samosas and water, for the stair climbers and onlookers.

“Just because we look different, have beards and wear turbans, doesn’t mean we love America any less,” said Sing.

Firefighters agreed. “We need to forget difference(s) and come together,” said Jack Clapp, a firefighter from the Rodeo Hercules fire district. “We need to be safe and we need to get along.”

The Pyramid stair climb event attracted many who were visiting San Francisco from other countries. A tourist from England said that “9/11 means a hell of a lot to me, because what happened here affected all English-speaking people.”

The Sept. 11, 2001 attacks were “the biggest news of the year,” said Sasha, a Ukrainian tourist who did not give her last name. “It made us feel that the world is not secure.” Dasha, another Ukrainian tourist, said that “I can still remember the day exactly. They canceled my university elections.”

With a death toll of 343 firefighters and paramedics killed on 9/11, the attacks have a great significance for many firefighters. Chris Foss, a firefighter from the Rancho Adobe fire district near Santa Rosa, Calif., said that the attacks “made me want to become a firefighter even more. Those guys gave their lives to help those people. It is a honor to serve this country.” Arenez agreed: “Those guys are heroes.”

Another stair climb up the Bank of America building in downtown San Francisco is scheduled for March. Unlike the one on Sunday, which was open only to participants 21 and older, the March climb will be open to all ages.