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Park Ridge firefighters walk in memory of the 9/11 fallen

By Brandi Makuski

Three members of the Park Ridge Fire Department participated in a 9/11 Memorial workout on Wednesday night, in full turnout gear.

It’s a tradition meant to honor the 343 firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty during the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Firefighter Stacy Coulthurst said she spent a few years volunteering for the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb at Lambeau Field in Green Bay but never got a chance to participate.

She decided to start a memorial tradition at a local fitness center after seeing firefighters in other parts of the country do something similar.

Last year, the PRFD kicked off its tradition of climbing 110 stories—the height of the fallen Twin Towers of the World Trade Center—on the stair climbers at Planet Fitness in Plover. Coulthurst said last year, she became so winded she had to take a break halfway through.

“Those guys had to be running on pure adrenaline, I can’t even imagine,” she said, estimating the helmet and turnout gear added about 50 pounds, and making the workout much harder. And that’s the whole point, she said.

“It’s not supposed to be easy for us, but it’s a lot easier than whatever they went through that day,” Coulthurst said.

The stair climbers were not functioning at Planet Fitness on Wednesday, so the group improvised on a bank of ellipticals, going a distance of two miles, which Coulthurst calculated was equivalent to the 110-floor ascent.

Firefighter Keith Plasky, Jr., said he participated in the Lambeau climb last year but wanted to participate in tribute a little closer to home.

“Once you get to the end, you ring a bell, and they give you a card of a firefighter you essentially walked for,” Plasky said.

Plasky said this year, he was walking for all the firefighters who died. He was in a sixth-grade math class when he learned about the attacks.

“It was crazy, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing,” he said.

But Firefighter Grant Hebblewhite, who turns 21 on Friday, said he isn’t old enough to remember the events of 9/11.

“I still want to honor those who’ve fallen,” Hebblewhite said. “As we all know in this career, we don’t know when our last call is. Those guys didn’t know that was their last call; they just did it because it was their job.”

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