PUTNEY -- Wearing their own turnout gear and carrying the names of fallen comrades, two Putney volunteer firefighters spent Sunday morning climbing 110 flights of stairs.
A.J. Cable and Matt Casabona joined 294 other climbers in Manchester, N.H., to honor New York City firefighters who perished in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the World Trade Center.
The grueling climb led many to a realization: New York firefighters battled flames and undertook rescues after ascending so many stairs that fateful day.
"It was going through everyone's minds -- we didn't have to go to work when we got where we were going," Cable said. "It was humbling to think we were already so tired."
Sunday's event was the second annual Memorial Stair Climb organized by firefighters from Nashua and Manchester.
Firefighters from 47 departments in three states participated in a climb that started at 9:03 a.m. -- the time that United Airlines Flight 175 hit the trade center's South Tower.
Organized into 39 teams, the participants ascended Manchester's 20-story Brady-Sullivan Tower five times. They finished by descending to the 10th floor and climbing up again, with the total climb representing the 110 stories of the World Trade Center.
It was no small task, especially when wearing a firefighter's protective clothing and an air pack.
"I'll definitely say it was a challenge," said Casabona, a 10-year veteran of the Putney
Ditto for Cable, who said he's been working to get in shape after enlisting in the Marine Corps.
"It was an additional challenge for me to see how much I could push myself," Cable said.
But the climbers were urged upward by a supportive crowd of onlookers. And with each participant carrying a card bearing the name of a New York firefighter who died at the trade center, they could not lose sight of the climb's meaning.
"It was amazing just to have all these firefighters from all over the New England area," Cable said. "There were a lot of people I had never met before, but we were all there for a common purpose."
Organizers said the climb raised an estimated $15,000 for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. More information is available at www.firehero.org.