The Office for Inclusive Excellence (OIE) organized a 9/11 Memorial Climb at Jack Critchfield Park to pay tribute to the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) and those who lost their lives during the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Keisha Booker, assistant director for multicultural development for the OIE, organized the event alongside graduate student Grace Laudendslager. Booker said the office knew they wanted to celebrate the 20th anniversary and wanted to get the community involved.
“It means a lot to be able to reflect on that day, so taking a pause and doing so with a ceremony with the physical activity afterwards was very rewarding for our office,” Booker said.
Rachel Crust, a junior music education major, was one of the students in attendance.
“I came out here because I really wanted to honor all of the people who passed away, were injured, or have post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] from the event,” Crust said. “I think it’s really important to remember something like this, even though I was only three months old at the time.”
SRU’s ROTC started the event with the Presentation of Colors. Slippery Rock Mayor Jondavid Longo, along with Booker, gave speeches commemorating those who passed, followed by moments of silence. Over 60 students and community members participated in the Stair Climb. Each participant walked up and down every set of stairs within Jack Critchfield Park eight times, equaling the 2,200 steps the firefighters climbed in the World Trade Center in 2001.
As part of the event, everyone was given a name tag of a firefighter who perished on Sept. 11. Each participant was asked to reflect on that person’s life and their sacrifice during the moments of silence as well as while they were climbing.
“I had the firefighter captain from Engine B, and just honoring his life, all the sacrifices he made, and his job that he did that day, just following in his footsteps of what he did,” Jacob Baird, senior safety management major and volunteer firefighter for the Slippery Rock Volunteer Fire Department (SRVFD) said.
Baird, along with Brittany Fitz, a senior homeland security major and a volunteer firefighter for the SRVFD, not only climbed the 2,200 steps but did so in full firefighter gear. For Fitz, each step was a way to honor those who came before her.
“[Jacob and I] have both been firefighters for eight years and we’ve been here at Slippery Rock in the Fire Department for the last three years, and this is our way of honoring fallen firefighters from FDNY,” Fitz said.
During the Stair Climb, many of the participants said the climb was exhausting. Participants also said they felt a feeling of respect for the firefighters who climbed the same number of steps 20 years prior.
“These men had a lot of courage to walk that many flights of stairs,” Crust said. “I mean, I was dying, I was out of breath, and I was tired”
“And these people had full on firefighter gear on. It was just kind of crazy to me.”
During the event, WSRU-FM played songs to keep people motivated. Free snow cones, cookies and water were also provided for all attendees. Activity tables were set up to make Spin Art, pet service dogs, read facts about 9/11, and sign their name on a poster honoring those who lost their lives 20 years ago.
For Crust, the event allowed for the names of the firefighters to live on and be remembered amongst our own community as heroes.
“I was just thinking, these people in general, are actual heroes,” Crust said. “When I think of a hero, you typically just think of Superman, but the real heroes are people who do things for others and risk their own lives. Firefighters and military people, they are all the real-life heroes. “