9/11 Stair Climb

Northwest students Madison Thielen and Erin Pankoke pass each other during the 9/11 Stair Climb hosted annually at the Bearcat Stadium. Anyone participating is given the challenge to climb 2,071 stairs in honor of the 343 firefighters who made the same climb twenty years ago. 

The U.S. flag was raised half-mast as a moment of silence rang out across Bearcat Stadium. Students, faculty and firefighters prepared to climb 2,071 steps to honor the 343 firefighters who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. 

It’s been 20 years since the terrorist attacks which killed thousands in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania changed the U.S. forever, and Maryville continues to honor the victims and first responders who lost their lives.

This is the second year Northwest has organized the stair climb, and University Event Coordinator Jordyn Greenhaw said she is grateful to be a part of the school’s 9/11 memorial.

Greenhaw said she thinks emphasis has been put into this year’s remembrance because many college-aged people were not alive for the events.

“It’s a great learning opportunity to understand what really happened that day,” Greenhaw said. “Many don’t understand the depth of when the country went still.”

The memorial included images and videos of the day of the attack on the scoreboard and the ringing of a bell in four sets of five rings each to honor first responders and significant community members. The history of the bell has been around since the 1800s, and was even rung to signal the death of U.S. president Abraham Lincoln.

Participants of the stair climb carried a card containing a picture and description of a firefighter to remember as they climbed the steps. 

President of Northwest John Jasinski spoke at the ceremony, thanking the participants and first responders present, reminding everyone to remember the victims and their families.

Senior Adrianna Holmes participated in the stair climb to honor and remember history. Holmes brought two of her friends with her to pay respects to the victims.

“We all have majors related to history and we want to try and understand what happened,” Holmes said.

This year’s stair climb was different compared to last year regarding COVID-19 mitigation. Because the event was outside, social distancing wasn’t enforced as strictly as last year and masks weren’t required. 

A similar memorial to honor the firefighters was held Sept. 10 at Freedom Rock-Franklin Park. Members of the community including some Maryville Middle School students attended the memorial ceremony.

Chief of Maryville Fire Department Phil Rickabaugh said that the memorial has been going on for around 10 years now. Rickabaugh said that this memorial hits close to home being a first responder.

“This event changed our lives,” Rickabaugh said. “We want people to know what this means to us who lived through it.”

The ceremony also included the ringing of a bell in four sets of five rings each, and a few speeches. Karla Duncan, who worked for the Red Cross during 9/11, spoke at the ceremony and recounted her experience working in New York after the attack.

Duncan worked at Ground Zero helping feed survivors and providing physical aid and mental health aid. One thing she said she would always remember was the sense of community that came out of the attacks.

“We weren’t divided by political party or race, we were united together,” Duncan said.

The message of “Never Forget” hasn’t lost its momentum even 20 years later. Rickabaugh said there are a lot of numbers involved in the events of 9/11, but that we need to remember that there were people behind those numbers.

“These were folks like you and me,” Rickabaugh said. “We must never forget them.”

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