Hundreds make World Trade Center tower climb

NEW YORK (AP) They’re high steppers of a different sort.

More than 700 people took the long way up at the World Trade Center on Thursday – climbing the stairs – for the inaugural ”Runyon Up,” a fundraiser for the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

Elite climbers went first, leading the pack at 4 World Trade Center. Participants could either tackle all 72 floors, or do a partial climb of 54.

Tim Donahue was the first man to reach the 72nd floor, making the climb in just under 9 minutes. The 44-year-old New York City teacher does several tower climbs a year. The first woman was Shari Klarfeld, 33, of Plainview, who made it in slightly over 11 minutes.

”It’s striking how new this building is. It’s like an unused baseball glove,” Donahue said. ”It’s missing the cigarette butts and gum stains.”

The building, part of a complex still under construction to replace the towers destroyed in the 2001 terrorist attacks, is so new that the floors climbers finished on were still unfinished.

Being at the World Trade Center site had particular meaning for Capt. Ray Farrell of the Fire Department of New York’s Ladder 43 in East Harlem. The 53-year-old made the climb with a few of the men from his company.

”We climbed from ashes, here we are,” the 25-year veteran said.

Some firefighters from New Jersey came to the climb in full gear.

”We do it as a tribute” to those who were lost in the Sept. 11 attacks, said Sean Smith, 22, who said he was wearing 68 pounds of equipment. He has been a firefighter for five years in Lebanon, N.J.

The event raised more than $170,000, said Lorraine Egan, foundation president and chief executive. She said the organization hopes to repeat the event next year.

Asked if organizers considered trying to move it to 1 World Trade Center, she said it wasn’t something they had spoken to anyone about, but ”I would love that.”

Tower climbs are held in high-profile buildings around the world, including the Empire State Building. The event Thursday was sanctioned, unlike a recent spate of unauthorized visits by thrill-seekers to the site.

Sixteen-year-old Justin Casquejo, of Weehawken, N.J., was arrested last month after getting through a hole in the fence surrounding the 104-story 1 World Trade Center and taking the elevator to the spire. A judge has ordered Casquejo to be assessed in a program for youthful offenders. He faces charges including criminal trespass.

In September, three people parachuted from the building, producing a video of their jump.

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