HomeNews9-11 first responders honored in stair climb

9-11 first responders honored in stair climb

Jackson Fire Marshal Latrelle Billingsley was in English class at Jackson Central-Merry on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when he first learned of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., and later the plane crash in Pennsylvania related to them.

“I remember Channel 1 was the news we’d watch every morning, and they came back with their own coverage like CNN did, and we watched it that morning,” Billingsley said.

Jackson Mayor Scott Conger was a freshman at Lambuth University getting ready for biology class when he first heard about them.

“I remember getting ready and then the news came on and I started watching the coverage,” Conger said. “My roommate was (now Jackson Police Lieutenant) Travis McNatt, who was in the National Guard.

“I remember we were watching the coverage and saw the second tower get hit, and Travis said he was probably going to get called into active duty. And sure enough, about a month later he was shipping out.”

Jackson Rockabillys owner Dennis Bastien was preparing to do lawn work that day and sharpening his lawnmower blades.

“I heard what had happened and wanted to know more, so I went back to my mother’s house down the road and wound up just watching TV the rest of the day,” Bastien said.

Candace Busby, now a member of the Jackson City Council, was living in Cherry Grove Apartments preparing to move to Michigan when she found out the World Trade Center and Pentagon had airplanes flown into them.

“It was one of those days you just stop what you’re doing to watch what’s happening because you don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Busby said.

Huntingdon resident Bob Laymon was on his way home from working a 12-hour shift at the Goodyear plant in Union City when he found out the first plane had struck between 7:30 and 8 a.m. Central time that morning.

“It was my routine during that time to go home and go to bed and sleep, but I stayed up a little while because this is was one of those moments where you’re watching and not believing what you’re seeing and then something else happens – the next plane hit the tower and then you find out a plane has crashed in Pennsylvania,” Laymon said. “And you’re watching the buildings collapse live on national television with all these people in there including firefighters. That’s why I’m here today.”

All of the people were in the same place on Saturday – the Jackson Baseball Stadium where the Rockabillys play their home games.

Billingsley and the Jackson Fire Department were hosting their second annual 9-11 Memorial Stair Climb in honor of those firefighters who ran into the World Trade Center, many of whom lost their lives trying to save others’.

Mylie Sparks is a Union student from North Carolina. She wasn’t alive when 9-11 happened, but she’s been doing memorial stair climbs for years because of her father.

“My dad is a firefighter, and a few years ago he began taking part in stair climbs like this one, and I would go with him,” Sparks said. “Then when I came to Union, there wasn’t an event here that I could be a part of, so I would do the stair climbs by myself in my dorm.

“I was an RA, so I was available to answer questions or help someone out, so I’d have to stop a few times to do that. But I had some people who’d climb 15 or 20 stories with me for a little while and then someone else would climb with me for a little while.”

About 75 climbers took part in this year’s event that started at 9:11 a.m. on Saturday. They started on steps in the end of the ballpark above the bullpen on the left field side of the stadium, walk the concourse to the next set of steps on the other side of the section, walk down to the bottom of the stairs in front of the field and come back up the other side of the railing on that set then repeat the process all the way around to the right field side of the stadium. They climbed until they got to 2,200 steps, to match the 110 flights of stairs it took to get to the top of each tower of the World Trade Center.

It took three full revolutions through the stadium to get close to 2,200, and the step that made 2,200 early in the fourth revolution was marked with an American flag drawn in chalk. It then took eight more steps to get back to the stadium concourse, so the climbers technically did 2,208 steps.

A few JFD members did the climb in full firefighter gear, just like the members of New York Fire Department did 22 years ago on that morning during the live situation.

Jackson Central-Merry football coach Erit Turner and about a half-dozen Cougar football players showed up for the climb as well – all of the players wearing jerseys and helmets and a couple carrying a football.

“This is meant to just be a way to honor those who sacrificed and gave their lives that day when they didn’t have to,” Billingsley said. “What we witnessed on national television that day was horrible, but what we saw and heard about afterward – stories of men and women brave enough to go into those buildings knowing they probably wouldn’t make it out just so they could possibly help as many people as possible get out – that’s the kind of people we need to honor and recognize.”

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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