[Editor’s note: In March 2015 I was privileged to watch this event as a member of the media.]
In March of 2015 over 1900 firefighters rushed up Seattle’s tallest building.
There was no fire. Except perhaps in the hearts of the men and women who each year don full gear weighing 80 lbs and race up 69 floors, that’s 1,311 steps, raising millions of dollars to fight leukemia.
The Scott Firefighter Stairclimb, the world’s largest firefighter competition, is held each year at the Columbia Center building in Seattle, Washington. Known locally as the Columbia Tower, it stands 943 feet. It is the tallest building in Seattle and the second tallest on the west coast.
Many of the climbers carry photos on their helmets with the names of loved ones and friends. Some are of people fighting, even beating, the disease. Others read “in memory of…”
“Our tallest building is only 23 stories so we can’t even really train for this”, said Chris Voller, a member of a firefighter team from Billings, Montana. “We’re climbing for Avery [last name withheld]. She’s back in Billings cheering us on. She’s on her third round of chemo now but she’s out ‘til probably April. She is following the posts showing the times (our team makes) and we send her pictures all the time.
“That’s her on our helmets. She’s a little cadet of ours. We adopted her as our junior cadet and got her a stuffed ‘fire rabbit’ with a fire uniform on it. She’s lovin’ it.”
”I’m climbing for Breonia,” said firefighter Kelly Smith. This is my 8th year racing for her.” According to Smith Breonia’s family came every year to watch Kelly race until their daughter died a few years ago at age 13.
The climb raises millions of dollars each year for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. But beyond the money, the event has a special place in this writer’s heart. My own son, Guy, has done the climb for the last three years. He says he is climbing the tower for me.
There’s more stories to tell about the brave men and women who save lives every day and one day each year fight to beat leukemia.