Steps remember fallen

Published 6:06 pm Saturday, July 28, 2018

Drivers may have spotted a man walking down Turlington Road with a decorated firefighter’s helmet and a black-and-white flag with stripes of red and blue. More cars passed Bill Price again just before 9 a.m. on Friday morning during another one of his flag-carrying walks.

Price was walking with a t-shirt, shorts and a filled CamelBak that keeps his hands free to hold the six-foot-long wooden pole, one hand wearing a red glove and the other in blue to signify both firefighters and police. It was a hot and humid route through downtown Suffolk to the Planet Fitness on East Constance Road and back again, which is about eight miles roundtrip.

“It’s not bad. It’s actually very peaceful,” Price said with his headphones playing a 60-song iPod playlist ranging from “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes to Guns and Roses.

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Price is a captain in the fire department at Naval Station Norfolk with more than three decades of firefighting experience. His walks and climbs to raise both awareness and money in memory of the first responders who gave their lives at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001 and those that continue to make the ultimate sacrifice.

At Planet Fitness, Price has been seen 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. He climbs about 60 flights of stairs in about half an hour to prepare for memorial stair climbs that are equivalent to 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 and his own memorial walk on the morning of Sept. 11 at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. He will walk for more than six hours, each minute representing one of the 400-plus emergency responders that died on Sept. 11, 2001, with assistance from his wife Cindy.

“My wife is going to come and keep time for me,” Price said. “If I have to sit down and rest she’ll just stop the time, and once I’m done with that the time will start up again.”

He’s walking with an increasing amount of turnout gear week-by-week to prepare for a 9/11 memorial 343K walk in August 2020, which will be approximately 213 miles from the Pentagon to Ground Zero in New York City. He and others will start on Aug. 23 and finish on Sept. 11.

“I’m going to carry a tag of each law enforcement officer that was killed (on Sept. 11),” Price said. One of his sons – Keegan or Gavin – will follow in a vehicle driven by Price’s godfather Al Weber, who is a firefighter that survived that day in New York City. They will track his distance and also help him switch out the tags that he’s carrying. “Each guy will get a kilometer.”

Price wants to make sure his children and others never forget the sacrifices made by first responders on Sept. 11, 2001.

According to the Uniformed Firefighters Association, as of Friday, 180 FDNY men and women have died from World Trade Center-related illnesses from the chemical exposure they suffered responding to the attacks. The most recent was Ret. Firefighter Charles Williams of Ladder Company 111, who died on July 16.

Price thinks about these sacrifices when he wraps a bandanna around the top of the flagpole he carries. That bandanna is in honor of Welles Remy Crowther, an American equities trader and volunteer firefighter who worked on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower, according to CNN.

When the plane hit the South Tower between floors 78 and 85 the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Crowther didn’t hesitate.

“He was responsible for getting almost 20 people out,” Price explained as he put on his gear Friday morning before his walk. “When he was done he went to the command post in the South Tower and started helping out.”

Crowther died that day at the age of 24. His story spread and he became known as “the Man in the Red Bandanna” because he always carried one and wrapped it around his face to help carry people out of the smoke.

“I have a red bandanna on me whenever I climb or walk,” Price said.

Price is also raising money for the families and survivors of these tragedies. He raised about $20,000 in the last four years for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, an organization that supports the surviving families and co-workers of the 343 firefighters that gave their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.

As of Monday, he’s raised $2,245 with the goal of raising $3,000 by Sept. 1. Donors have tossed money into his donation fire extinguishers at That Good BBQ, George’s Steakhouse, Ricky and Roy’s Eatery and Sal’s Pizza near Sentara Obici Hospital. People have stopped their cars as they drove by his flag just to say thank you and give him a few dollars.

“It’s nice to see that there’s still a lot of support,” Price said. “A lot of people out there that remember where they were that day. I even have people that weren’t even born yet or were just kids when it happened that still support me.”

For more information and to make a donation, search “Up-110” on Facebook.