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Dedicated patriots at the crack of dawn on Sunday raced to the top of New York City’s One World Trade Center, climbing about 104 stories to honor our nation’s first responders.

About 1,000 people came out to the annual Tunnel to Towers climb to honor those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks, Abby Huntsman reported.

Among them was Michael Burke. He lost his brother Capt. Billy Burke, who stayed behind to save others on the North Tower’s 27th floor.

“You get to the 40th, 50th, 60th, 80th floor, and that’s what you’re thinking about,” Burke said today.

“You hear Billy: ‘Keep going, I’m right behind you.’”

Tim Brown, one of the firefighters who managed to make it out safely, said Sept. 11 was the day many of his friends were left behind.

“When it started getting hard today in the stairwell after the 50th floor, and it was hard to just put one leg in front of the other, I found strength through them,” he said.

“They were the strength in my legs, and they were the wind in my lungs and under my wings to get me up here.”

The event raised about $300,000 to build smart homes for injured service members and fund scholarships for firefighters’ children.

Watch more, above.

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