Donna Crawford is in training.
Once or twice a week she travels down 30A to One Seagrove Place, the tallest building in South Walton, and climbs the stairs in the 21-story building, then takes the stairs back down. Last week she did it twice, she says proudly.
Crawford is training for the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb, which will be Sept. 7 in Panama City Beach.
The Memorial Stair Climb is held in memory of and to honor those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
The event consists climbing 110 flights of stairs in a 22-story building; three times up and two times down or climb up five times to duplicate the 110 stories of the World Trade Center Towers that emergency responders had to climb that fateful day.
Crawford participated in the climb two years ago without training, but has been training for it this time.
"I took a lot of breaks last time and it was slow, but I did it," she says proudly. "Three times up and two times down. It took me hours my first time, but I did it."
Crawford has lived in South Walton since 1972 and been a Realtor here for 25-plus years. She moved here from New Jersey.
Crawford found out about the climb when her son, who is a volunteer firefighter, was training for it two years ago. Her dad was also a volunteer firefighter in New Jersey and in South Walton. She is a SWFD Fire Commissioner, Seat 7, since 2006.
"When I found out my son was doing it, I thought I would give it a shot," she said. "It is for a great cause, it benefits firefighters, and it's in memory of 9/11."
Crawford said completing the climb is something a person really has to train for as it comes down to stamina and endurance.
Amazingly, firefighters do the climb in the hot stairwell in full gear, just as it was done on 9/11.
"Some of their gear weighs 40 to 60 pounds," said Crawford. "They're tough."
But Crawford also saw families participating in the climb, including women who did it while holding babies.
"It was amazing," she said.
The event is open to everyone: firefighters, law enforcement, EMS, the military, and the public.
This 9/11 Memorial Climb is done all over the country on the same day at the same time.
"It's a big deal," said Crawford. "It takes place several places in Florida. All firefighters from South Walton who want to participate will go to Panama City and join them. A big crowd from South Walton participates. I will drive and take a car-full."
The event organizer is the Fallen Firefighter organization and benefits the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. The cost to participate is $25 per person.
The Stair Climb takes place at Laketown Wharf Condos, located at 9902 South Thomas Drive in Panama City Beach.
The event is from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will be a blessing of the helmets ceremony at 10 a.m., with the Stair Climb starting at 10:30 a.m. Climbers should be onsite, checked in, and ready to go by 9:30 a.m.
There will be a lunch/reception awards ceremony immediately following the climb.
Trophies will be awarded in different categories; professional pictures will be available for everyone who completes the climb, T-shirts will be available to all participants, and door prizes will be given away at the awards ceremony.
NFFF is a 501(c)(3) charity and donations are tax deductible. Extra donations are welcome.
The public is encouraged to participate and remember while raising money for a good cause.
For more information, contact Lt. Terry Parris at 850-819-1156 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.