The first 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb event occurred on September 11, 2003 during "Operation Enduring Freedom" in Parwan Province, Afghanistan. Albuquerque Fire Department Lieutenant Charles Cogburn scaled a two story building 55 times wearing body armor, a helmet and an M-4. When Lt Cogburn returned home the climb returned with him and on September 11th, 2004 the climb was given the title Albuquerque Firefighters Memorial Stair Climb. Firefighters from Engine 5 and Engine 2 were dispatched at 8:46am (the time the initial dispatch of FDNY units occured) to the Bank of Albuquerque Building in downtown Albuquerque. The building is 22 stories tall and it was climbed 5 times.
The following year, on September 11, 2005, five Colorado firefighters (who had already been climbing stairs together for fitness and camaraderie) gathered in downtown Denver to climb 110 flights of stairs in all their gear in memory of their FDNY brothers who were killed four years earlier.
The following year, organizers of the second Denver 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb changed their venue and attendance grew to twelve participants representing four fire departments from the metro Denver area. As word spread so did interest and the event expanded. In 2007, attendance reached several hundred participants, representing every part of Colorado. The following year, participation was capped at 343, the number of FDNY firefighters who were killed on 9/11. The 2008 event also included a new remembrance component: each climber was assigned a badge, with the name and photograph of one of the fallen firefighters of 9/11, symbolically completing the climb with one who couldn’t.
In 2009, registration at the Denver 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb was filled to capacity in seven days, and a wait list of several hundred potential participants was established; more than forty-five fire departments from five states were represented. Firefighters from around the country contacted the Denver team, in hopes of holding similar events in their cities. In 2010 founders of the Denver 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb partnered with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) to set forth a national standard protocol for future 9/11 Memorial Stair Climbs.
The very first climb started after partnering with the NFFF was held in Nashville TN on September 11, 2010. Event organizers from Denver and Tennessee worked together with the NFFF to hold the first 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb event at a national fire conference during the 2011 Fire Departments Instructor Conference in Indianapolis, IN. A north Texas firefighter participated in the climb and decided to bring it back to Texas.
On September 11, 2011 over forty 9/11 Memorial Stair Climbs occurred across the world (at least three were outside the US and held in Paris, London; Auckland, New Zealand; and Sydney, Australia).
There were three 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb events held in Texas in 2011, all held for the first time:
Dallas 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb
Central Texas (Austin) 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb
El Paso 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb
In 2012, a fourth climb occured in Texas:
Texas Gulf Coast 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb - held in Corpus Christi.