On an April trip to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Donna Carnevale saw a sign.
The Cutchogue resident was drawn to a driver’s license on display at the New York City museum. As she moved in for a closer look, the name on the license jumped out at her: William Burke.
Ms. Carnevale and five friends had already begun training for weeks to participate in a tower climb honoring that same man, a New York City Fire Department captain who lost his life when the North Tower collapsed as he was attempting to rescue two men on Sept. 11, 2001.
On Sunday, the six team members, who call themselves the “East End Wonder Women,” will climb all 180 flights of stairs at One World Trade Center as part of the charity event, which raises money for the Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation.
“This is something I didn’t have to think twice about,” Ms. Carnevale said. “As Americans, why wouldn’t we do this?”
Soon after learning of the event, Ms. Carnevale, herself a triathlete, signed on as team leader and recruited her five teammates. They range in age and fitness experience, but one thing they all have in common is a commitment to this cause. Through Sunday, the East End Wonder Women had collectively raised more than $2,500 for the event.
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The charity supports first responders across the nation and the money raised is also used to aid military veterans returning from war.
“It’s so important for them to know they haven’t been forgotten,” said team member Jeanne Caufield of Southold.
To prepare for the climb, the team has been meeting to train at Horton’s Point in Southold. Together they climb the stairs from the beach 20 times apiece.
At the start of each climb up, they grab a rock from the beach that they leave behind at the top of the stairs. Once they count 20 rocks, they’re done for the day.
To put this grueling activity fully into perspective, there are 116 steps at Horton’s Point, so they are climbing a total of 2,320 steps. That’s actually about 300 steps more than they’ll walk Sunday, though the actual climb will keep them continuously moving upward with no breaks.
Their training ritual, which they’ve been completing bright and early three mornings a week for about the past two months, usually takes each of the women, all over 50, about one hour.
Edana Cichanowicz of Cutchogue said despite the grind, she’s enjoying the team aspect of the experience.
“I’ve never been on a team before,” she said with a smile. “I was always the one picked last.”
Ms. Carnevale said the training may force each of the women out of their comfort zone, but the cause makes it all worthwhile.
“When I’m out there and my back is hurting, I’m thinking, ‘What was going through Billy Burke’s mind as he attempted to carry a man in a wheelchair from the World Trade Center?’” she said.
With one week to go before the climb, they all got out of bed this Mother’s Day morning to meet for their third-to-last training session at 7:30 a.m. For team member Debbie Horton of Cutchogue, that meant having to leave behind a cuddle session with her 4-year-old granddaughter.
“That was tough,” she admitted. “But then I thought to myself, ‘You know what, it’s time to go train.’”