From air shows to rock concerts, Belmont Park has hosted a wide variety of non-racing events in its more than 115 years of existence.
But none of those events are more important than the hundreds of firefighters, their families and others who have gathered at Belmont Park in recent years to climb the equivalent of 110 flights of stairs from the World Trade Center, where 343 FDNY firefighters perished on September 11th, 2001.
After a year lost to the pandemic, the FDNY Stair Climb returns to Belmont Park on Sunday, October 17th.
This year’s 7th annual event is part of the nationwide 9/11 stair climb program that pays tribute to the FDNY firefighters who died more than 20 years ago on 9/11.
The climb benefits the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, which supports the families of fallen firefighters and the FDNY Counseling Service Unit.
“Twenty years later, I still remember what trauma looked like etched on the faces of firefighters at the World Trade Center site when a team from the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and I arrived on scene September 12th, 2001,” said Chief Ron Siarnicki, who is the NFFF Executive Director. “It’s not something you can ever forget.”
The nation’s inaugural FDNY stair climb to benefit the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation took place on September 11th, 2005 when Colorado firefighters climbed 110 flights of stairs in Denver – each step commemorating the 110 stories of the World Trade Centers.
The concept caught on around the country and became an annual event, taking on particular relevance in New York, where the tragedy of 9/11 was so personal and still raw.
Citi Field, home of the Mets, hosted the first of several FDNY stair climbs. In 2017, the annual event moved to Belmont Park.
“The FDNY knows that we’re here for them as long as they need us,” said Chief Siarnicki of the NFFF. “We’ve been able to bring this same promise to the fire service as a whole. Our trauma, grief and behavioral health counseling program is something we now offer to fire service organizations across the U.S. as they’re dealing with their own traumatic events and line-of-duty deaths.”
Kudos to Belmont Park and the Thoroughbred racing community for continuing to do their part in this on-going support system.