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Local Firefighter Trio Join to Honor 9/11 Victims, Service Members

Words can’t express the thoughts behind what happened 11 years ago on 9/11. But we remember.

Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steven McCraw issued the following statement regarding the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks:

“Eleven years ago, we witnessed the most horrific act of terrorism in our nation’s history. Today we honor the memories of the great Americans we lost in that attack and their families remain in our thoughts and prayers. We also honor those courageous first responders who answered the call of duty on that fateful day, and the brave men and woman in the United States Military, whose heroic efforts overseas protect us here at home. Today is also a reminder to all Texans that we must remain vigilant at all times because we live in a great state with valuable resources and critical infrastructures, which makes us a potential target for those who seek to destroy us and our way of life.”

A local Delta County citizen and firefighter for the Commerce Fire Department, Joe Martello, participated in the Dallas 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb along with fellow firefighters Bruce Millard and Gabe Wittkopf.

“The reason we did this was to honor the 343 that paid the ultimate price in doing a job that you love,” said Joe Martello on his experience. “When you go into the Fire/EMS Service you join a brotherhood. You spend a third of your life with these people, you come to know them, their families and become part of that family and they become part of yours.”

The trio along with 340 other firefighters climbed 110 floors of the Renaissance Tower located on Elm Street in Dallas on Saturday, Sept. 8 to honor the FDNY members who perished on Sept. 11, 2001 as well as those firefighters lost in the line of duty in Texas this past year.

“The climb itself took about three and half hours. There was a ceremony in the courtyard next to the tower and we exited the courtyard and stopped by a piece of steel beam that came from the Towers placed a hand on it and continued on the journey,” said Firefighter Martello. “We filed into the building down to the second level basement and started the climbed up 55 floors having time to think and reflect on what was going through their minds and for me what would I do in that situation.”

The ceremony included a Presentation of Colors, National Anthem, 5-5-5-5 Bell Ceremony and at 8:46 a.m. was a Moment of Silence – marking the moment hijackers crashed Flight 11 into floors 93-99 of the World Trade Center’s North Tower. Dallas Firefighters Pipe and Drum played Amazing Grace upon departure into the building. The event was not a race, but rather an opportunity to pay tribute to the fallen.

“I got to honor was Christopher Santora,” said a very humbled Martello. “He was a school teacher like his mother before he got into the fire service. We carried their personal accountability tag (This tag all fire personnel carry and give to Incident Command so they can place you with a division and know who is on scene, where a person is on scene and what task they are doing). We carried that tag on our person, and at the top placed it on an accountability board.” Martello said Santora was just 23 years old and the youngest firefighter killed that day.

The Commerce trio climbed for the crew of Engine 54 (The Pride of Midtown).

“We raised as a team $1,105 and total for the event was $55,035.00,” said the firefighter on Tuesday. The money raised will go to the Texas Line of Duty Death Task Force to help the families of firefighters who have died in the line of duty in the State of Texas.

View more photos from the event at the Cooper Review Facebook page.