Some of the rain from Hurricane Irma was expected to head our way. It’s my supposed off-day from my regular job; I got a text asking me to come in. I recently had to go to the local emergency room for a kidney stone: which I eventually passed. And then, to top it all off, a woman whom I wholeheartedly thought God had sent me to be my final girlfriend on this journey of life, decided that her “logical brain” outweighed her heart and decided to no longer pursue our relationship.
So, already, alongside all the victims of the hurricanes and storms and tornadoes and all of our local brothers and sisters–especially in Texas and Florida to whom my heart goes out–I thought, “This Monday could not get any more Monday if it tried.”
So I headed to my local Planet Fitness in Columbia, TN where I decided to get in some exercise. At the end of a somewhat vigorous upper body strength training routine, I decided to do about 30 minutes of cardio on the treadmill. During my workout I see this young man in the corner stretching with his entire firefighter uniform on. Being self-absorbed in my already bad morning, I thought nothing more of it than this guy is going through a training exercise for his squad.
Then it dawned on me, as I hop on the treadmill, he is next to me on the stair climber, full uniform, climbing the stairs, sweating profusely, and climbing like a champ. I had looked at the television, as there are several to choose from ahead of me, and I see the President and First Lady having a moment of silence for the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks. My brain paused for mental clarity, my body was still moving on the treadmill, I look to my left where he was at and it all made sense. I thought to myself: “This fireman is climbing those stairs full uniform, tanks and all, in honor of the fallen heroes and victims of the attacks 16 years ago.”
In an instant my whole demeanor changed.
I believe with all of my heart and soul God sends messages to me through people. And here was one less than five feet away from me. Although I did not hear God’s voice, the message was loud and clear. Will Craft, a firefighter from Columbia, TN, was climbing and climbing without hesitation–sweating, face red, but a man determined and a body in motion. He is a hero in his own right, willing to lay his own life down if need be to save another, trucking on in remembrance of the fallen on that sorrow-filled day 16 years ago.
Because of people like him in this world–firefighters, police officers, military men and women–I get to go home and hug my family and pets. I teared up as he finished and I asked him what I already knew, and that was why he was doing it. I shook his hand, told him thank you, and prayed for him in my car before I headed on my way.
Before I headed out, the journalist in me wanted to share his story, and luckily for me he decided to do so:
How long have you been a firefighter, and is that what you always aspired to be?
I’ve been a firefighter for 16 years. I actually wanted to be a teacher since my mother and grandmother were both teachers. My mother advised against me being a teacher, so I told her I was going to be a firefighter and she was actually cool with that. My grandfather was a captain for the same department I work for in Columbia, TN.
I saw you at the gym on the stair climber, which is grueling enough, and yet you were climbing it in full firefighter uniform, tanks and all, what made you decide to do that?
In the last five years firefighter fitness has become one of the number one issues along with cancer precautions for us. The number one killer for firefighters is heart attacks. Our department allows for us to have 30-45 minutes of physical activity every shift. We work a 24 on 48 off schedule. I use Planet Fitness as a filler for those days off. The stair climber is in my opinion the ultimate cardio machine. Most large cities in the US host stair climbs to honor those 343 firefighters who died. They fill up fast because there’s only 343 slots open. I tried to sign up last year and was bummed I missed the cut off. The idea popped in my head to go to Planet Fitness and use their machine. The gear I was wearing weighs all together about 60lbs. The firefighters who were climbing the World Trade Center towers were wearing the same thing. They actually were carrying extra bottles and extra hoses with them. Those guys went up the towers and never looked back. They didn’t hesitate, they didn’t show any fear, they just went. That’s why I do it in full gear.
You had a name on the back of your tank. Tell us about that.
Stair climbs will issue a name for you to climb in honor of. I pick someone at random and write their name down, including their age and their company. Companies are what type of vehicle they ride. This year I picked Brian Sweeney, Rescue 1, age 29. Our goal is to never forget what these guys did and went through that day. I did it for him and his family and the other 342 guys.
Are you a Christian? If so do you have a favorite bible verse?
I am. I have been since the age of 13. Two years ago my daughter accepted Christ and I wanted to give my life to Christ again. We were both baptized the same [day] and I have never been more proud of her. I attend New Song Baptist Church, and I play the drums for our praise band. Playing the drums gives an extra avenue to worship. I love both my children the same as most parents. I have a duty to care and raise them the right way. My favorite verse is Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers don’t stir up anger in you children, but bring them up in training and instruction in the Lord.”
Your climb on 9/11 inspired me at the gym. Is that your hope, to inspire others and is there a message you would like to give to people?
I appreciate being told that I’ve inspired you and maybe others. Never give up!! Whatever you’re doing, never give up. Maybe someone else saw me climbing and did an extra mile on the treadmill. I’m inspired daily by my mother-in-law. She is currently battling cancer for the fourth time. She doesn’t give up. She continues to live her life.The hardest thing we do on a daily basis is letting God be in control of our lives. We want control of everything we do, but it’s not up to us. We have to sometimes let go and trust that he has us.