“There isn’t enough room up there”, the man had kindly told me, when I had asked. He had paused before he answered my question - like he didn’t want to disappoint me. I guessed what he was going to say before he said it.“Or is there even a place for us to watch up there?” I helped him out with the words with which he didn’t want to disappoint. That’s when he gave us our solution and instead took me to the place where it would be best to watch as the climbers finished.
“They will finish their climb and there will be EMT’s to check them out to be sure they are ok and allow them to rest a bit before they take the elevator back down.” He was showing us a roped off area that I had seen earlier and now I understood why. "This is where they will come out of the elevator."He continued, “They will come out here then go back through those outside doors that the ropes lead to; they will walk along the street which enables them to come back through the front doors where the crowd will be waiting for them. But if you wait here, this is where you can see him first.”
Kind man, indeed. I knew I had liked him when we first arrived and he had greeted Matt with a friendly hello and some light-hearted jokes to make Matt feel more comfortable with the whole situation that was obviously new to him.He showed Matt where to get signed in and gave him a bit of the information he needed to know. In the hall, there were several tables set up with sponsors and information about the event. I noticed a couple tables of t-shirts and water bottles. Turns out all the participants earned a t-shirt for their efforts, and those that were in the top tier for donations, also earned a sweat shirt. Matt got both.
We hadn’t thought in a million years Matt would be among the top donors. It had been a struggle initially to even meet his goal. But towards the end of the period, donations came from the most heart-warming, but unexpected places, which helped him surpass his goal putting him at number 15. This gave him another incredible advantage. It placed him in "Battalion 1" - those honored to make the first climb. There were 7 battalions in all of 30 firefighters each. Being in the first battalion, allowed Matt to get his climb over early and simply be able to relax and enjoy the rest of the event.
We had arrived early that morning because we simply did not know what to expect. They opened the doors at 7:00 am with the first climb scheduled for 9:00 am. As we waited, we learned a little of what would take place. The battalions would be lined up only as it was their time to climb. A bagpiper would begin playing and lead them down the long hall in a procession where guests and supporters would be lined up watching them to encourage and cheer them on. The procession would go out the front doors and along the side walk to the parking garage, where they would enter to get to the basement of the building. There they would wait in line until those timing the event were ready to begin. Each climber was given a stopwatch to wear on their wrist to tap on a cushioned wall at the beginning of their climb and again to shut it off at the end of their climb.It was so organized and well-planned that we never saw a glitch throughout the entire day. It was simply a wonderful event. I couldn’t have been more pleased at the smoothness of the entire operation. I had worried for nothing. But I worried again, when we watched as EMT’s headed toward the elevators with their equipment.
“What’s that they are carrying?” I had asked Matt.“That’s in case anyone vomits from exertion and their airwaves become clogged.”
My eyes got huge. Didn’t need to hear that.Finally they were ready to begin the opening ceremony. They began with The Star-Spangled Banner sung by a firefighter quartet, who gave probably the most beautiful rendition I have ever heard. Next Amazing Grace was played on the bagpipes. “Excuse me, ma’am” the bagpiper had softly said to me as he made his way to the front of the crowd to take his place where he would play. He certainly is calm, I thought to myself when he passed me on his way. He must have arrived just fine, because the beautiful hymn began right on cue.
Next, there were a couple speakers. The first I believe was a fire chief in charge of the event. And the other, was a woman that spoke to us about the difficulties of this disease. I looked at all those standing in front of me that were about to make the climb. I could only see their backs, but it seemed like I could feel their hearts. “Climbing for Keri” some of their t-shirts read. "Bay City, Fire" “Silverton Fire”, “Portland Fire”. “Breathe” was on the back of Matt’s shirt and it had much more meaning after hearing the woman speak. She told them that when they got to the 10th floor and they were wondering if they would ever even make it to the 40th that they should think of those that suffer with this disease and remind themselves that this is how those with CF feel every day of their life.The ceremony was heart-warming and heartbreaking at the same time.
|Cameras just seem to find him|
As they lined up, the firefighter in front of him told him he didn’t need to wear his gloves if he didn’t want to. Matt appreciated any helpful info he could get and handed me his gloves. I could tell this fighter had done this a time or two. It didn’t surprise me when he was first at the end of the climb for Battalion 1.
As they began the procession, and the bagpipes played and the crowd cheered, of course I cried. It was so doggone meaningful and that was my boy! I watched as each firefighter passed me, some trying to look stoic; others with grins from ear to ear; some had a serious look on their face initially, but at the cheers of the crowd, couldn’t help but break into a smile. Because he was toward the front of the line, I forgot to look at Matt’s face. I only watched his back as he headed on his way, then I directed my attention to the others that followed. Watching the faces of each individual as they marched was, for me, the best moment of the entire event.
“Come on”, my husband nudged me. “Let’s go follow them to the basement.” He led me to another door that allowed us to catch up with those who were first in the procession. There, a woman asked them if they would stand for a picture. She told them they were the top 30 fundraisers out of 210 or so, and she wanted a photo of them. Of course, I grabbed the opportunity and took a picture too.They then lined up again, and from here we were able to wait until Matt tapped his wrist and began his race to the top. Once he tapped, my husband also set his watch. We headed to the spot where the kind man told us they would finish. Matt told me it would probably be about 10 minutes. This helpful man had told Matt that he could wait at the top and rest up before coming down. “But!” he had warned him, “If you don’t take that elevator when it gets to the top, it is a long wait before it comes around again.” I knew then, Matthew wouldn’t wait.
As we waited at our spot at the ropes, Rick got a text on his phone. “Done” it had simply said. Rick figured Matt's time to be about 12 minutes. He knew it would only be an estimate. I was simply relieved to know he had finished and wasn’t puking on the stairs and choking.We watched and waited. There came the first two finishers. A few minutes later, there was Matthew, smiling from ear to ear and posing for my camera, at my request.
After our welcome, and our photo op, Matt had to continue out the doors for his walk outside to come back through the front doors where the crowd would be waiting. We rushed over where we would greet him officially. My husband could not have been more proud and hugged both Matt and the other climber that came through the front door with him. I stood out of the way.
There would be snacks and an award ceremony at 1:00 pm at a local pub called Kell’s which was a land mark of the city, – a nice Irish place which was in a beautiful old building. This time frame gave us plenty of time to have a nice brunch at the restaurant on the 30th floor while we waited for the rest of the climbers. We were able to enjoy a leisurely meal and the magnificent view. We got to talk about the times and the climb and all the details we wanted to know. Matt said no one was passing each other on the stairs - at least in his group. They were spaced evenly between climbs which left them on the stairs to set their own pace. Now, there actually were times a climber would get passed, but it was not something he had to deal with. Everything went as smooth as glass, he told us. He was encouraged and he wanted to do it again improving his time next year.It turned out his time was 9:51. “What was the discrepancy between your time and Dad’s time of 12 minutes?” I had asked.
“Oh,” he had replied, “I had to help someone get his coat off. He was heating up too much and they couldn’t seem to get it off to help cool him down. I texted Dad after that.”
Firefighter/EMT first. That's who these people are! And that’s my boy.”
|The National Anthem|