Local woman honors firefighter cousin one step at a time

Firefighter Ryan Bridges and Alanna Hughes continue along their 9/11 stair climb.
Courtesy Alanna Hughes

TRUCKEE, Calif. — It’s been 21 years since members of the New York City Fire Department rushed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Truckee’s Alanna Hughes still remembers that day and the attacks that took the life of her cousin Timothy McSweeney.

“You’ll never forget it,” said Hughes. “I can remember exactly where I was when I heard on the radio. And then I heard later that my cousin died.”

On Sunday, Sept. 11, Hughes and a handful of other members of the community took part in a 9/11 memorial stair climb, making 30 trips up the 66 stairs between High Street and Donner Pass Road, honoring her cousin and others that gave their lives on 9/11.

Alanna Hughes, her children, and friends climbed 1,980 stairs on 9/11.
Courtesy Alanna Hughes

“It felt to me, pretty powerful,” said Hughes. “It was difficult, but there was something really significant about it.”

During the climb, Hughes carried a photo of her cousin, a 6-foot, 3-inch firefighter, who joined FDNY in 1987 and later received six awards for heroism.

“My cousin, they called him the ‘Big Guy,’ but he was a gentle giant,” said Hughes. “He was a really awesome person.”

Firefighter Timothy McSweeney’s Ladder Company 3 truck now sits at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
Courtesy Alanna Hughes

Joining Hughes on the run were her children, Tahoe Mountain Realty owner Jeff Brown and firefighter Ryan Bridges, who had originally challenged Hughes to participate in a memorial stair climb.

“This year was about having Alana with me and wanting her to have that experience,” said Bridges. “I kind of do it for myself, but I like other people to experience it because it’s pretty powerful.”

Dressed in full gear, carrying a fire hose, and a picture of McSweeney, Bridges made the 30 trips up the stairs — something he said he tries to do every year, but usually at an organized event in Sacramento.

“Whether I’m in Sacramento or Truckee, I try and do stairs every year,” said Bridges.

Firefighter Ryan Bridges makes his way down the stairs between High Street and Donner Pass Road.
Courtesy Alanna Hughes

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation organizes 9/11 Memorial Stair Climbs each year across the country, and supports the surviving families and co-workers of the 343 firefighters. During the climbs, firefighters and others carry a photo up 1,980 stairs in honor of a firefighter that died on 9/11.

“That’s how we’ve been doing it,” said Bridges. “We get a bio and a picture of one of the firefighters who died on that day and bring them up to the top of a high-rise building in Sacramento. They all go up each year.”

In Truckee, Hughes said she didn’t tell many friends or others about doing Sunday’s memorial stair climb, but said ultimately the group had 11 people participating.

“I just didn’t think it was something people would relate to,” she said. “Or doing the 1,980 stairs, like what part of that sounds awesome?”

“I just didn’t think it was something people would relate to,” said Alanna Hughes. “Or doing the 1,980 stairs, like what part of that sounds awesome?”
Courtesy Alanna Hughes

Going forward, Hughes said she’s unsure about searching for options to create a formal 9/11 memorial stair climb in Truckee, but would like to explore ways to fundraise or have donations set up for 9/11 widows and orphans or for one of the local fire districts.

“I’m not an organizer of events at all, but I could see this getting bigger and being inspiring for a lot of people in our community,” said Hughes. “At least it gave me an outlet to not just sit at home and feel sad, but to go out and do something that makes feel powerful and love for my cousin and his family. It turns the day around a little bit.”

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