New York and New Zealand Firefighters Mark 9/11 with Memorial Stair Climb

By Emily Armitage, Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Consulate, Auckland.

For the second year in a row, two prominent New York firefighters were invited to take part in a Memorial Stair Climb and Commemorative Service at Auckland’s Sky Tower to pay respects to the U.S. firefighters who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 and the New Zealand firefighters who have perished in the line of duty.

Deputy Assistant Chief Robert Strong and Battalion Chief Steven San Filippo were deployed to ‘Ground Zero’ following the September 11 attacks, joining their colleagues in their search and rescue operation. Working as part of the emergency response team during the attack made a significant impact on the visitors who shared some of their experiences with fellow fighters and with groups of students on school visits.

Firefighters from America and New Zealand gather at the base of the Sky Tower for the Memorial Service. (photo credit: U.S. State Department).
Firefighters from America and New Zealand gather at the base of the Sky Tower for the Memorial Service. (photo credit: U.S. State Department).

The New York firefighters were joined by over 170 firefighters to read out the names of the 343 New York Firefighters who died at the scene of 9/11 and the 56 New Zealand firefighters who have lost their lives in service. As carried out in the previous year, stair climbing firefighters wore a tally with the names of either the 56 New Zealand firefighters and the engine or ladder companies of the 343 American firefighters.

The two New York Firefighters Steve San Filippo (far left) and Robert Strong (far right) with U.S. Ambassador Mark Gilbert. (photo credit: U.S. State Department).
The two New York Firefighters Steve San Filippo (far left) and Robert Strong (far right) with U.S. Ambassador Mark Gilbert. (photo credit: U.S. State Department).

United States Ambassador Mark Gilbert formally opened the service to honor the heroes and read a letter from Daniel Nigro, the Commissioner of the New York City Fire Department.

This was the first year that the Memorial Stair Climb was held at the Sky Tower. The venue was of particular significance as the Sky Tower is the centerpiece of Auckland’s skyline.

U.S. Ambassador Mark Gilbert opens the formal service in the Firefighters bucket. (photo credit: U.S. State Department).
U.S. Ambassador Mark Gilbert opens the formal service in the Firefighters bucket. (photo credit: U.S. State Department).

Prior to the event, the firefighters were accompanied by event organizer and Auckland firefighter Tony Scott to visit local schools Northcote College, Dilworth High School, Bruce Mclaren Intermediate and Pakuranga College. The firefighters spoke about their experiences working for the New York Fire Department, including a discussion of their roles during the 9/11 attack. The school visits were a great success as students and staff enjoyed the presentation delivered by the New York firefighters. The talk on 9/11 integrated well with what some of the students were currently studying at school as part of their social studies course.

Deputy Assistant Chief Robert Strong and Battalion Chief Steven San Filippo giving a presentation at Northcote College. (photo credit U.S. State Department).
Deputy Assistant Chief Robert Strong and Battalion Chief Steven San Filippo giving a presentation at Northcote College. (photo credit U.S. State Department).
Robert Strong, Steven San Filippo and Tony Scott answering questions from Northocote College students. (photo credit: U.S. State Department).
Robert Strong, Steven San Filippo and Tony Scott answering questions from Northocote College students. (photo credit: U.S. State Department).

Mr. Scott also organized various outreach events for the pair to share their backgrounds and experiences to emergency response teams in Auckland. Mr. Scott is the founder of the NZ Memorial Climb and plays a major role in organizing various firefighter events such as the Annual Firefighter Sky Tower Challenge in Auckland. His efforts have not only raised awareness for the firefighters who risk their lives every day to save others but have raised over $2.5 million for the Leukemia and Blood Foundation.

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