Double amputee veteran participates in 9/11 stair climb challenge

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CHIEFLAND, Fla. (WCJB)-- Hometown Fitness in Chiefland hosts its 1st Annual Stair Climb Challenge to pay tribute to the first responders who sacrificed their lives on 9/11.

The event was created after Shari Cannon, a Hometown Fitness teacher, met someone whose mother died in 9/11.

Mrs. Myrna Maldonado-Aqosto was a civilian working in the World Trade Center in the second tower. Instead of evacuating, she stayed and helped others. She is survived by two sons who both reside in Chiefland.

“Our goal was just everybody to try and do 30 minutes or 110 floors whichever one they can do,” said Karen Morgan, the Hometown Fitness manager. “If they only did five floors, that's great. We just wanted you to come out and honor those who didn't make it out of 9/11.”

Paul Kocina, 32, participated in the memorial climb to pay his respects to the 9/11 victims.

“I get to do this, they had to do this,” Kocina said. “If this is what he has to do to remind ourselves what other people had to sacrifice, then to me it seems like a pretty simple sacrifice."

Kocina wanted to challenge himself to complete the memorial climb no matter what.

“For me, I'm a double amputee missing both legs so I couldn't do a stair climber with my feet so I decided to do it with my hands,” Kocina said. “I 114 floors in 19 minutes and 50 seconds. Being able to just add a different kind of challenge to it and still accept that things are still hard but it definitely wouldn't have been as hard in that situation."

Kocina's legs were amputated after he was injured in an accident while serving in the Marine Corp.

Although he's had to overcome a lot, he said it is nothing like what the first responders had to go through on 9/11.

“First responders and police officers, for days and weeks, they ended up having to dig through the rubble,” Kocina said. “They had to dig through and find small fragments of what was left of people so families can have closure. So always be kind to everybody because you never really understand what somebody else is going through."

Gym staff say they will host the event every year to continue to honor the fallen heroes.