Two firefighters in a small town west of the Twin Cities put on 45 pounds of gear, mounted a stair climber and kept going until they had each conquered the equivalent of 110 floors in tribute to their New York City counterparts who gave their lives after the 9/11 terror attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Brownton firefighters Jesse Messner and Jake Knick were among many around the country — including another firefighter Tuesday up the road in Sartell — who have taken to exercise machinery or actual stairs in buildings and sports venues over the years as a gesture of respect for the hundreds of firefighters who died as well as others who later died from complications connected with answering the call on Sept. 11, 2001.

"We want to make sure that everyone remembers all of the responders that paid the ultimate sacrifice," Messner said Thursday. "We walked [Wednesday] to remember the firefighters that lost their lives in the most courageous act."

Messner, 38, and Knick, 42, wore pretty much what the New York firefighters had on 18 years ago: a personal protection equipment package of helmet, hood, bunker pants, coat, gloves, boots and air pack. What they didn't have to cope with was smoke, heat from a fire, and the stress of responding to a real-life tragedy.

Messner was first to get on the Fire Department's stair climber, and he kept going until reaching the 110-story goal. Knick jumped on next as the monitor collected their combined data: 220 floors, in 59 minutes and 16 seconds, for a 592.4-calorie burn.

Messner said Wednesday he feels "fine, so far. Tomorrow is probably going to be the day when you feel the effects."

About 65 miles north of Brownton, firefighter Rob Johnson of the Sartell Fire Department pulled off the same feat at the Anytime Fitness in town. Video of Johnson, 33, was shared on the Fire Department's Facebook page and had attracted more than 20,000 views as of Thursday afternoon.

Johnson said he gave the task little thought before taking on the challenge.

"I got home from a trip to Missouri about 3:30 in the morning and saw that others were doing it," he said. After stopping home for a bit to tend to his kids, he walked into his fitness center and got the thumbs-up to take the 110-story climb to nowhere.

Johnson said the hardest part wasn't so much the physical difficulty, but "knowing that those guys [inside the World Trade Center towers] were doing it and knew they probably weren't going to come back."

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482