Like so many of us, Lenwood Brown III was forever changed on September 11, 2001. For the last 6 years, he has chosen to remember the 343 firefighters who gave their lives that day by participating in the New Hampshire 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb. After Lenny heard that this year’s climb was in danger of being cancelled, he stepped up to organize it. When he reached out to us recently for raffle donations, we decided to shine a light on his quest to memorialize our fallen brothers.
LB3: I’m a full-time firefighter in Merrimack, New Hampshire. When I’m not at the firehouse, I’m usually drawing firefighter/EMT-related things as a freelance illustrator and cartoonist.
I have a beautiful wife, Deborah, and an amazing 7-month old baby boy named Sebastian. I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Mississippi State University in 2001. In 2003, I found the fire service. I was a call/volunteer firefighter/EMT for several years until I was hired full-time 5 years ago.
HBO: When you heard the New Hampshire 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb was cancelled, what motivated you to take over the event and see it through?
LB3: In our town, high school seniors spend time volunteering in the fire department for a day towards the end of the school year. This year, 5 or 6 students spent the day at the firehouse. A conversation about 9/11 arose. I asked them what the significance of the day was for them.
It dawned on me that most new firefighters, whether full-time, call, or volunteer, are between 18-20 years old. That means they were only 2-4 years old when it happened. Most of them don’t even remember watching the World Trade Center collapse on live TV. It is important to me, especially within my department and in my community, to pass the history of 9/11 along. The day should never be forgotten, especially in the fire service. Losing the stair climb for a year just didn’t seem right. I decided to put my past marketing and design experience to good use to ensure that the stair climb tradition would continue.
HBO: Are you coordinating the event solo, or do you have a team of people working with you?
LB3: The guys on my shift have been huge supporters and extremely helpful. So have friends outside the fire service. My wife has been instrumental in organizing the event with me. On the day of the stair climb, we will have about 20 volunteers keeping things going – helping with water stations, registration, accountability, and more.
HBO: In addition to commemorating the 343 fallen firefighters of 9/11, this event is a fundraiser. Who exactly are you raising money for?
LB3: 100% of the profits are donated to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF), an organization that provides assistance to families of LODD [line of duty death].
The NFFF has helped, and continues to help, the families of 9/11 firefighters through a variety of programs. Most significantly today, they provide assistance to those families who are coping with the injuries, cancers, and other diseases that have resulted from 9/11 and the rescue efforts following. I appreciate what the NFFF does to assist those families in need. I’m happy to know that they are available for my family should something happen to me.
LB3: The biggest challenge is trying to keep this event unrelated to the previous years’ events. I love and respect the folks who organized the previous NH stair climbs and don’t want to step on anyone’s toes.
I’m organizing this year’s event to fill the gap. I’m here because I knew skipping a year was not an option. My friends and I were going to climb no matter what. It just so happened that a lot of other people in and around New Hampshire wanted to climb too. Hopefully next year the other organizers will be able to continue their stair climb so that the conversation of 9/11 never skips a beat.
The ‘Never Forget’ NH 9/11 Stair Climb will be held on Saturday, September 9th at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in Downtown Manchester, New Hampshire. For more information or to register to climb, visit neverforgetstairclimb.com Early registration is $25. Registration on the day of the event is $35. All are welcome to join as climber or spectator.