(The Tennessean-Nashville) The rhythms and patterns of the Nashville 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb may seem more predictable since the event began in 2010, but that doesn't lessen the meaning behind them, organizers say.
On Saturday evening, they assembled at the base of the Tennessee Tower and began preparing for this year's fourth-annual memorial climb honoring firefighters killed during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
This morning, 343 firefighters from across the region will ascend and descend the 24 floors of stairs in the government building four times. Even more supporters will cheer them on from the base of the tower after a brief ceremony that will kick off the event.
While many of the event's characteristics haven't changed much from the beginning, founder Josh Smith said that doesn't change the significance of the stair climb, even for those who scale the tower each year.
"It's just neat to see everyone stand on the first floor, hear 'Amazing Grace' on the bagpipes and be moved by it," Smith said.
For Dickson firefighter John Davis, the goal is always to run for Capt. Thomas Haskell Jr., a New York Fire Department firefighter randomly chosen for him the first year of the event.
In the four years he's climbed with a lanyard carrying Haskell's picture, he's seen several people who couldn't finish the four rounds up and down Tennessee Tower, which are meant to represent the 110 floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
"There are times when I thought I wasn't going to do it either," Davis said. "But I take a look at the guy on the lanyard on my neck and think, 'This is for him.' "
Many participants train for months so they can repeatedly traverse the stairs inside one of Nashville's tallest buildings in around 90 minutes.
"Some people think it's going to be a walk for something," Smith said. "It's a little more challenging than that."