AUSTIN, Texas -- Firefighters in Central Texas honored those who died in the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
They gathered Wednesday morning, 12 years after that fateful day, at the AFD Drill Tower in East Austin.
The men and women dressed in full gear weighing approximately 100 pounds. They strapped on air tanks. Many hoisted hoses onto their shoulders. They all grabbed a dog tag with the name of one of the 343 firefighters who died rescuing others from the World Trade Center towers. Close to 3,000 people died that day.
Then the group climbed in silence, going up and down the stairs at the tower until they reached 108 flights, roughly the height of the WTC towers. The only sounds that echoed through the concrete walls were the clinking of metal from the tanks and heavy breaths each of them took as they climbed the steps.
They make the stair climb every year to honor those 343 firefighters...that never got to finish, never came down, said AFD Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr.
Before the climb on Wednesday the fire department held a ceremony to honor those who sacrificed their lives. They gathered at the Buford Tower in downtown Austin. An American flag, hanging from the extension ladder of a fire truck, flew overhead.
The crowd stayed silent as firefighters rang a bell five times, signaling the loss of a life.