New Mexico first responders honor fallen 9/11 heroes

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – It’s been 21 years since Sept. 11 would forever become a day of pain, remembrance and patriotism. New Mexico first responders across the state paid tribute to the thousands who lost their lives that day. 

Albuquerque Fire Rescue held its annual stair climb and memorial ceremony. The grueling event honors the 343 New York City firefighters killed on 9/11 with local firefighters climbing 110 stories in downtown Albuquerque. 

“Myself personally I’ve been doing this for the last several years, I can’t actually count how many, but this has been going on since 2003,” said AFR Lt. Tom Ruiz.                 

Many now were not even alive when during the terror attack but they believe keeping ceremonial traditions like the stair climb and others is crucial in teaching the younger generation about what happened that day and immediately after. 

“It’s incredibly important to remember, it’s incredibly important for us to never forget the sacrifice they did and with the younger generation of firefighters, it’s important to pass this along to them,” said Ruiz. 

At just 13-years-old, Lorenzo Vargas has made his own traditions in honoring the 9/11 victims. 

“When we were at my grandpa’s house, we would watch the documentaries. About 9/11 so when those were on, all these brave men and women just running into the tower just inspired something, sparked something,” said Vargas. 

He’s too young to participate in the stair climb, so he got creative. 

“Yeah I was kind of bummed when you have to be an actual firefighter or sign up to do the stair climb, but we were thinking let’s just walk. It’s not going to be the same equivalent, it’s not going to be the same gear but it’ll be something to honor them,” Vargas said. 

Bernalillo County Fire Rescue held its third annual “Fallen Heroes 9/11 Memorial” with the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s office Honor Guard. 

A bell was promptly rung at the top of each hour while guard members stood watch over the memorial for 343-minutes- one minute for each firefighter killed on 9/11. 

“’For me as a firefighter, something like this is incredibly impactful because we live and breathe with our brothers and sisters in fire. We effectively live a third of our lives together and when a tragedy like this happens and we are no longer able to be next to that person, it really strikes close to home,” said BCFD Engineer and Production Coordinator Janessa Ruyz.