There were 189 men, women and children who conquered 22 stories five times in a row Sunday afternoon at the Riverwood building complex just south of Cumberland Mall in honor of the 110-story World Trade Center towers in New York City and the 343 first responders who died on 9/11.
“Every year this gets bigger and bigger to keep the dream alive and to never forget,” said Mike Korsch, an Acworth resident who moved to Cobb County in 2004 after retiring as a New York City detective and volunteer firefighter.
He was also a first responder and survivor from the day of the attacks and now oversees the Georgia Chapter of the Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund that played host to Sunday’s memorial climb.
“This means a lot to me,” Korsch said as he looked upon the hundreds of people who participated, volunteered and came to cheer on their loved ones. “We just love to have everybody here.”
The state organization, which was established in 2011 and has donated more than $17,000 in financial aid and $100,000 in surplus equipment to fire departments in need, assists Georgia firefighters and their families with educational, medical and equipment needs.
Terry Farrell, a decorated member of the New York Fire Department, was among the 2,996 people who died 12 years ago. His family and friends set up the fundraising campaign in his honor.
Among the almost 200 participants who climbed Sunday were firefighters from the Cobb County Fire Department, including veteran Lt. Andy Rustin, and 33 cadets with Allatoona High School’s Navy JROTC program.
“It’s a brotherhood,” Rustin said about participating. “We are called to a profession that we felt like we were brothers and sisters to and we just want to participate in something that is in honor and memory of them and to carry on what they have done.”
This was Rustin’s second time climbing. He has been a firefighter for 24 years, and has worked for Cobb Fire, most recently at Station 30 off Windy Hill Road south of Marietta, for the last 18.
The climb for almost half of Allatoona’s JROTC cadets was made possible with the monetary support of Ryan Blythe with the Georgia Trade School, a welding school in Kennesaw.
“Like everybody else, I was moved by 9/11 and it changed everybody’s life,” Blythe said about why he supports the fund and sponsored the students Sunday.
Just two days before the attack 12 years ago, Blythe was in New York City on business.
“On 9/11, I was actually working in the corporate field and was in one of the towers in Buckhead, so it was very real to me,” he recalled.
Blythe was introduced to the foundation after he met Korsch last October at a Cobb Chamber of Commerce event when he was eyeing a piece of steel that was set up at the Terry Farrell Firefighters Fund had on display at a booth.
He didn’t participate in the climb Sunday, but with his family by his side they cheered on the cadets and other participants.