Students, first responders and community members participated in the annual memorial stair run at Kenan Memorial Stadium on Wednesday morning to honor and commemorate those who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.
Despite the early start time at 5:40 a.m., hundreds of people attended what Lt. Col. Dan Snow, a professor of military science, called a run of “reflection and remembrance."
Participants climbed 2,076 steps of the stadium to symbolize the steps first responders took to rescue civilians in each of the towers attacked in the World Trade Center.
For the past six years, the event has grown annually. The trend continued with attendance being the largest to date this year.
The UNC Army ROTC, which hosted the event, reached out to local fitness groups and the Chapel Hill and Carrboro police and fire departments to attract community involvement. They also increased campus recruiting this year by promoting the event in the Pit, posting on social media platforms and reaching out the UNC Panhellenic Society and athletic teams.
Taylor Hughes, a senior in Army ROTC, was the primary organizer of the event.
“People remember 9/11, like usually there’s a couple of things posted on social media on 9/11, but there’s not really a lot of doing something active to remember those who were involved," Hughes said. "I think for that reason, it's really cool for a lot of people to come out."
The memorial run began with brief opening remarks by Snow. He shared how he was personally impacted by the events of 9/11 as his cousin, Fred Rimmele, was aboard United Airlines Flight 175 that crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
“Your presence today to honor and reflect on the loss of Fred and so many others that day — victims who were strangers to you — is uplifting and inspiring,” Snow said to the crowd.
Remembrance of the nearly 3,000 civilians who died from the attack still continues every year, even for current students who may be too young to remember the events and aftermath of 9/11.
“For me, it’s very much trying to do it in remembrance of those who passed away and try and honor them and try to remember their memory — just not let them be forgotten,” Drew Warlick, a senior in Naval ROTC, said.
Snow said his 10-year-old daughter, who was not even born at the time of the crash, wanted to participate in the run because she recognized the day’s significance.
“I think that this shows a lot of respect for the people who were there on those days, for the servicemen who responded to those emergencies,” Daniel Hogan, a senior majoring in exercise and sports science, said. “Doing it in this way helps us think that, 'Oh this is exactly what they had to do that day,' except the pressure was on and a lot bigger.”
Several firefighters were present dressed in full uniform to more accurately simulate the experiences of the first responders who rushed up the stairs of the Twin Towers that day.
As exhaustion crept in after running several flights of stairs, people maintained their sense of purpose and kept moving. To keep energy up, attendees erupted into chants of “Tar Heels” and “USA.”
While running, people had time to recall their memories and contemplate the effect of 9/11 on individuals, communities and the country as a whole.
“It should prompt us all to reflect on the fact that our differences are largely superficial,” Snow said. “At our core we all share a common righteous humanity and a true compassion for each other that will never allow us to forget the priceless value of human life.”
The UNC community experienced losses on 9/11, as six alumni were killed that day.
“When it did happen, there was a lot of emphasis on coming together as a community to support each other and I think that that notion is really important to hold on to both in a sense of 9/11 remembrance and also just in general being able to foster community relations,” Hughes said.