By: Jen Russon
For the fifth year in a row, J.P. Taravella students in the high school’s DECA program have raised donations for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, in an event known as the 9/11 110-story Memorial Stair Climb.
Led by Jamie Simmons, a marketing and personal finance teacher at the school, Simmons helps prepare DECA students as emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality and management. In his opening remarks on Saturday, he explained that participants would be climbing the equivalent of the 110 stories that comprised the towers in the World Trade Center.
“We’re going to go up the stairs, come back down, and do it 27 times,” said Simmons, who spoke right after John Napolitano, the keynote speaker at the Saturday morning event.
Napolitano lost his son, Lieutenant John P. Napolitano, Jr. on 9/11. He was 33 when he worked for the FDNY‚ Rescue 2 unit of the Lakeland Fire Department in Brooklyn when he entered the smoldering World Trade Center, never to return. His body was never recovered.
Napolitano Jr. was a husband and a father to two daughters, one of whom became a volunteer firefighter just as her late father had been at age 17.
When Napolitano addressed the audience inside of Taravella’s auditorium, he read a tribute he had written about his son and fellow firefighters lost that fateful day. Some of these first responders had grown up with his son, and volunteered as teens with the Lakeland Fire Department in New York.
Napolitano moved many in the audience to tears with his tribute; the narrative was written in remembrance of all 343 firefighters who lost their lives at the twin towers on 9/11.
In addition to students, members of the audience consisted of prospective firefighters and students of the Coral Springs Institute of Public Safety. They were joined by their instructors and adult volunteers, some of them Taravella faculty members.
Simmons said this year’s stair climb raised $12,000, an increase from the previous year. The proceeds will go to help the families of firefighters who were killed in the line of duty. Donations raised will also help to create and maintain programs that support fire service survivors.
Watching the climb in remembrance of the 343 first responders who died, Napolitano, a former police officer who now lives in Palm Beach with his wife Joann, said that the deep reverence and respect the high school students show never cease to amaze him.
“It’s enough to make an angel smile,” Napolitano said, adding, “I know a lot of them weren’t born yet when 9/11 happened, but they have grown up watching the events of that day on T.V.; people jumping from buildings, the smoke, ashes and collapse of the towers. None of us will ever forget.”
To make a donation to the National Fallen Firefighters Donation, visit the official site here.
Jen Russon is a freelance writer and English Language Arts teacher. She has published two novels to Amazon Kindle and lives in Coral Springs with her family.