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Hero firefighter loses leg, but not his will to serve

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NEW YORK -- A firefighter who survived Sept. 11 terror attacks then later lost a limb on the job plans to climb 110 flights of stairs as he continues to serve his community, this time focusing on rescuing children from the pain of living with severe burns.

"I signed up to be a firefighter to help people," John Walters said. "It’s a calling not a job."

Those are the words Walters chooses to live by.

He lost his entire crew of Squad 288 and Haz Mat 1 -- 19 men in all -- to Sept. 11, 2001. He spent a month in the burn unit after a firehouse kitchen accident and then suffered a loss that ended his 14-year career with the FDNY.

"I was pinned between cab and firetruck," he said, which caused him to lose a leg.

But he never lost his will to help others. He still volunteers as a firefighter Port Washington, where he served as chief. And he champions the causes of Sons of the Flag to help burn victims.

"I just had to reinvent a way of doing it, that's all," Walters said of his continued service.

He was recently fitted with a bionic leg so he can help kids facing burns and the scars left behind that the rest of the world can't see by paying for them to attend summer camp, where they can play and grow with other children and "come out of their shells."

That's why Walter is willing to endure a 110-flight stair climb in a Texas tower.

"It's going to take a long time. It's 50 percent more work for an above-the-knee amputee to do this than an average person," Walters said.

He’s vowing to raise $20,000 this year alone to help those kids, and many more burn victims. He’ll be a part of symbolic fundraising team of 343 firefighters and 23 police officers, the same number who perished on 9/11.

The money they raise also will go to research better ways to treat burns, which has largely stayed the same since the Vietnam War era. These are big tasks, but if there’s something Walters knows, it’s that nearly anything can be achieved, one step at a time, with the right people by your side.

To learn more about Walters' fundraising efforts for children suffering from burns, click here.

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