Two members of the Okaloosa Island Fire Department recently participated in an annual 9/11 Stair Climb held in Panama City Beach.
PANAMA CITY BEACH — Strapped in about 75 pounds of gear, two Okaloosa Island firefighters climbed 110 flights of stairs Saturday to honor the victims of 9/11.
More than 500 people visited Edgewater Beach Resort in Panama City Beach on Saturday to take part in the Panama City Beach 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb. Together, the group repeatedly scaled an 11-story condominium.
"It was more than just the physicality of the event," Captain Sean Mast said. "It just puts you in kind of a mental state to where you can push a little harder ... because you're thinking about all the people who suffered."
He and firefighter Sam Wilcox agreed that while the day was tough, it was worth every step.
"It was an awesome experience to be out there," Wilcox said. "(We) got out there just to represent for Okaloosa County."
Both members of the Okaloosa Island Fire Department shared that 9/11 had a role in their path to becoming a firefighter.
"It kind of drove me to want to do more and to want to help out my community and the citizens around me," said Mast, who was working as a firefighter in Tallahassee during the attack.
He said that 9/11 helped him realize it was possible to push through any obstacle thrown his way.
For Wilcox, who was living in Washington D.C. during the strike, the terrorist attack literally "hit close to home."
He added that his dad was working at the Pentagon when everything happened.
"A ton of thoughts (were) running through (my) mind because (I was) watching where (my) father works and it just got hit by an airplane," Wilcox said.
According to the History Channel's website, more than 340 firefighters lost their lives on 9/11. As everyone else was trying to get out of the Twin Towers, they were climbing in to help.
The two men agreed that the climb helped stoke their passion for emergency services.
"Never in my life growing up would I have thought I'd become a firefighter ... but now I look at it as the best job in the world," Wilcox said.