Courtesy the Port of Seattle:

September 11, 2001 was a day that changed everyone’s lives. The families of people who died in the World Trade Center, New Yorkers commuting to work, airline pilots, and airport security. Forever changed.

The tragedy also impacted people around the world and on the other side of the country.

Allen Martinez, a Port of Seattle Firefighter, was in Seattle, watching the crisis unfold on television. He was horrified watching his fellow firefighters enter the towers — many to never come out. Allen wanted to help, not just watch. The guilt at not being able to help and the feeling of helplessness were overpowering that day. And continued for the next decade.

Climbing to action
Then he decided to do something about it.

“What does WE WILL NEVER FORGOT mean to me? It means more than just thinking about those that perished on that terrible day. I felt compelled to do something for them. I wanted a way to honor them individually. So, on June 17, 2014, I began a personal challenge to honor the 343 firefighters that lost their lives on 9/11.”

To do this, Firefighter Martinez took on a Herculean task: to climb 26,754 stories, straight up the stairs.

“My challenge is to climb 78 stories in full bunker gear with a 45 minute air bottle for each of the 343 Firefighters. I chose 78 stories to pay respect to the tremendous effort firefighters demonstrated making it to a height of 78 floors. There were only two that made it that far — Fire Marshall Ronald Bucca and Battalion Chief Orio Palmer.”

Making it personal
Firefighter Martinez wanted to honor each firefighter individually, to ensure they were never forgotten. To do this he climbs stairs wherever he can, most often at the parking garage of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA).

Profile of a fallen firefighter posted in the stairwell

“I wanted to learn more about the personal stories of each of the 343 Firefighters, so I looked up their obituaries. I keep each obituary in the ‘343 Challenge Notebook.’ Every time I climb, I place the obituary and the personal story of the particular firefighter I am climbing for at the top of the stairs. Once I finish the climb, I take a moment with any fellow firefighters that joined me to climb that day, to reflect on the life lost. I then sign and date the firefighter’s story and add it to the notebook.”

Allen Martinez Notebook honoring firefighters

After reaching his initial goal of climbing for each of the 343 Fire Department New York (FDNY) firefighters, Firefighter Martinez continued to climb to honor and keep alive the memory of some other lost heroes of the day: 23 New York Police Officers, 37 Port Authority Officers, 8 EMTs and paramedics, and 55 military personnel. And he honored the crew members of United Flight 175, United Flight 93, American Flight 11, and American Flight 77.

Allen Martinez pushes his mind and body to honor the fallen heroes and support first responders.

“Climbing for each of these brave heroes is how I can reflect on what their sacrifice means to me. I (and all the other Firefighters that have ever participated in a memorial stair climb) want the Fire Department of New York to know … WE WILL NEVER FORGET.”

“I hope to motivate and inspire the new generation of firefighters just starting their career to participate in memorial stair climbs across the country to instill in them the sacrifices that were made on that day.“

Memorial stairway at SEA
To commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the Port of Seattle dedicated the green stairway (the southernmost stairway) at the SEA parking garage with a plaque to honor the fallen heroes. Watch a video of the ceremony:

Plaque for the staircase