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'We get to go home afterward, they didn't': Father-son firefighting duo reflects on 9/11, climb thousands of stairs

Twenty years after the Sept. 11 attacks, Alex Rossi climbed 110 stories in full gear to honor the FDNY firefighters who died in the tragedy.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Twenty years after the Sept. 11 attacks, Spokane firefighters continued their tradition of climbing up thousands of steps to honor those who died. 

Every year, local firefighters symbolically climb the stairs at the Bank of America building in Downtown Spokane six times while wearing 70 lbs of firefighting gear. This represents the 110 stories of the Twin Towers.  

For one local firefighter, he had been waiting his entire life to climb 2,200 stairs.

"I wasn't there, so I just feel like I have to give back," Spokane firefighter Alex Rossi said. "Not only to the fire service but to myself for just not being able to do something then."

Despite only being 10 months old when the attacks happened, Alex dedicated the rest of his life to being a firefighter. He took after one of the most important people in his life, who happened to be working that day. 

"At the time I was assigned to Station 18, which is way up on the north side," Mike Rossi said. "I was working the day before, so the 10, and the morning crew was coming in. We would leave between seven and eight in the morning. I just came out and guys from both crews were there and we kind of like, saw it on TV and it was like, why? It just didn't seem real at the time, like is this really going on?

"It's just shocking, we all stuck around the station. The off-duty crews didn't leave until like, after 10 in the morning because we didn't want to leave, just riveted into the TV. It was definitely a day I'll remember forever."

Alex's dad Mike has been a firefighter for decades, inspiring his son to join the profession. Mike works at City of Spokane Fire Department No. 4 and Alex works at Spokane County Fire District 10. 

Saturday morning, Mike watched his son climb the equivalent of 110 stories nonstop, carrying 70 pounds of equipment. The 9/11 memorial climb is in memory of the 343 FDNY firefighters killed that day.

"Soreness is nothing," Alex said. "We get to go home afterward, they didn't. So, any pain that we could go through, it's fine with me."

When he got 80 flights up, the significance of what he was doing hit him. 

"It saddens me that firefighters that they didn't get to, they didn't get to go home," he cried. "It really, really saddens me. All the people that I've met, the firefighters, I just love."

Firefighters are supposed to be calm and collected, he added, after letting some tears flow. Today is an exception, he said. Today is a day that he and all firefighters will always remember, and it will push him to continue fighting for those who perished in the tragedy.

"There's just no place I'd rather live or a place I'd rather work," he said. "Spokane and Spokane County have just done so much for me that it feels fair that I give back just like my dad did, just keep on going until I can't anymore, even then I'll do my best to support them in the community."

This was Alex's first 9/11 climb, but it certainly isn't his last.


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