On Sept. 11, 2001, a series of terror attacks claimed the lives of 2,996 people and wounded over 6,000. That death toll included 343 firefighters. Since that day, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation has sponsored stair climbs across the nation to commemorate and show support for the fallen first responders.
Jason Harding has participated in one of the annual stair climbs for the past four years, but when his work schedule prevented him from attending a stair climb in Knoxville, Tennessee, this year, he still found a way to show his support.
Before going into work on Sept. 11, Harding went to the nearest 24-hour fitness center and asked the front desk personnel if he could climb 110 flights of stairs in full gear to honor the fallen firefighters.
The Planet Fitness® in Maryville, Tennessee, obliged, and both members and staff were moved by Harding’s actions. Team member Lezlie Bauler, photographed Harding in action and posted the image to social media. By the end of the day the story had gone viral and has now been shared over 150,000 times.
“Many stated my act brought them to tears, but little do they know, their support did the same for me,” said Harding in a released statement. “I want to thank everyone that shared and commented in response to this post. It is proof that, although we seem divided as a country at times, we unite at the most crucial times.”
Harding was not previously a member of Planet Fitness, but Planet Fitness Growth Partners, which owns 46 clubs in Maryland, Tennessee, Washington, D.C., Florida and Washington, was so inspired it provided Harding and his wife a one-year, complimentary Black Card membership.
Everyone involved received overwhelming positive feedback with members expressing gratitude toward Harding and the Maryville PF staff.
“This humble act of honor and respect inspired so many. We are grateful to Jason Harding and to our team member, Lezlie Bauler, for going about this the right way and asking permission to take a photo and share with others,” said Chris Cavolo, principal at Planet Fitness Growth Partners. “There is such a bigger message and purpose here; we are just grateful to have been a part of it. God bless America and all the brave first responders.”