Firefighter keeps climbing for the fallen
Published 10:33 pm Tuesday, April 3, 2018
There’s nothing out of the ordinary about going to the gym. Except when that includes wearing about 100 pounds of firefighters’ turnout gear.
Suffolk resident Bill Price has made that his routine for when he goes to Planet Fitness on East Constance Road three times per week. Price gets on a StairMaster with his fire-resistant pants and jacket, helmet, air pack and a two-and-a-half-inch supply line folded and slung over his shoulder.
Then he climbs about 60 flights of stairs in about half an hour, Price said. The intense heat and weight of the suit has actually had a twofold benefit over the years for his job and the climbing ahead of him.
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“It keeps me going for these stair climbs I’m going to do, and it keeps me in shape,” the 47-year-old said. “If I go in to pull someone out of a fire, I don’t want somebody to have to pull me out too.”
Price has been a firefighter since he was 16 years old and is a captain in the fire department at Naval Station Norfolk. He’s been training at Planet Fitness and at Mount Trashmore in Virginia Beach for his fourth-year of 9/11 memorial stair climbs.
Each participant at these events pays tribute to firefighters that died on Sept. 11, 2001 by climbing or walking the equivalent of the 110 stories — or 2,200 steps — of the World Trade Center.
Price plans to participate in a memorial climb in Roanoke on Sept. 8, one in Greensboro, N.C. on Sept. 15 and two others after that.
“I go around the country and try to do different cities each year,” he said.
His training has made an impression on staff and members at Planet Fitness, according to manager Aja Riddick. Some were curious about his training, and even more showed their gratitude.
“It’s inspirational,” Riddick said. “He’s even had some of our employees practice in the gear to see what he goes through.”
This tradition includes Price’s family as well. His wife, Cindy, has joined him on past memorial climbs, and his eldest son Keegan, 8, completed a full climb last year, he said. His youngest, Gavin, 6, will eventually take it up as well.
“He’s got his own set of gear, and he’s ready to go,” Price said about Gavin.
Price said he wants to make sure his children and others never forget the sacrifices made by first responders on Sept. 11, 2001.
His helmet has writing that recognizes the 23 NYPD officers and 37 Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police officers that died that day, along with many others.
There’s also “78 South,” referring to the team of New York City firefighters led by Battalion Chief Orio Joseph Palmer that reached the 78th floor of the South Tower, where the plane had struck the building.
Each memorial climber receives a tag with the name of somebody killed on 9/11, Price said. One of the tags he carries has Palmer’s name. Another has FDNY Fire Chief Peter J. Ganci Jr., and yet another has Jonathan Hohmann, who was the best friend of Price’s godfather, Al Weber, a firefighter who survived that day in New York City.
Price said he has more than 50 such tags.
“You’re climbing to remember the guy that’s around your neck,” he said. “You’re climbing for him.”
Price also climbs to raise money for families and survivors. He raised about $9,095 last year for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, an organization that supports the surviving families and coworkers of the 343 firefighters that gave their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
According to the Uniformed Firefighters Association, as of Wednesday approximately 175 FDNY men and women have died from World Trade Center-related illnesses from chemical exposure they suffered responding to the attacks.
“You’ve still got people dying to this day of 9/11-related cancer,” Price said. “They’re still fighting the battle to this day.”
Price’s goal this year is to raise $10,000 for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. He’s also organizing car washes for April 14 and 28 at Advance Auto Parts at 1522 N. Main St. Volunteers hours are available for those that assist, Price said.
Visit the Facebook page “Up-110” to make a donation and other information.