9/11 Tower Challenge: Steps taken to remember
As the sun climbed over Arizona Stadium Friday morning, over 1,000 people ran, jogged and walked the bleachers in this year’s 9/11 Tower Challenge.
The challenge was started five years ago by the Tucson SWAT team to raise money for military charities and to remember those lost in the 2001 attack, according to Anthony Flores, a Tucson Police Department officer and member of the event’s planning committee.
Flores said the first year drew about 70 participants, but this year the event raised over $100,000 for the 100 Club of Arizona, the Arizona Fisher House and the Pat Tillman Foundation, with Northern Arizona University and Arizona State University participating for the first time.
Climbers made two laps around the stadium, climbing 110 floors and 2,071 steps, the exact number in the twin towers. Photos of those who had lost their lives in the attack lined the stairs.
The morning started with an audio clip that combined reports from first responders, newscasters and eye witnesses. The crowd, seated in two columns to represent the towers, listened in hushed silence as radio static, screams and disbelief recreated that day, from the first plane’s impact to the fall of the second tower.
After the American flag was presented, accompanied by the Tucson Fire Pipes and Drums, Jeremiah York, pastor of Ridge Christian Fellowship, said a prayer for those who sacrificed and those who continue to do so.
“As we walk those 2,071 steps today, we walk not with hate, but with love,” York said.
Lieutenant General Mark Chris Nowland, commander of the 12th Air Force and Air Forces Southern, said a few words to participants.
“Look at the faces,” Nowland said. “Think about their names, think about courage. You represent the best of America.”
Mark and Laura Russell, who learned about the event from the 100 Club, said they attended to do just that—honor the fallen and do “anything that helps society remember 9/11,” Laura said.
“I don’t think we can [honor them] enough,” Mark said.
Phil Davis, member of the Marana Fire Department, saw another important reason for the event.
“I think this is a good thing, to bring a bunch of first responders together, to work out together,” Davis said.
It provides the opportunity for first responders to support each other, which is what Samantha Roberts, chief of University Emergency Medical Services, and Samuel Jordan, a UEMS training officer, were doing that morning.
UEMS had four crews providing non-transport medical support for the event, which Roberts said they have done for years.
“This is great for Tucson, it serves as a great tribute for the campus,” Roberts said.
Roberts, a physiology, neuroscience and cognitive science sophomore, is from Connecticut and remembers being pulled out of school on 9/11.
“It hits close to home, but I think it does for everyone in the U.S.,” Roberts said.
Jordan was not in the U.S. in 2001, but was instead on a U.S. military base in Japan where his Marine parents were stationed. His clearest memory is the feeling on base that day.
For that reason, he thinks more should be done.
“If people remembered every day all those who served and lost their lives, I think it would go further than just one event once a year,” Jordan said.
Many participants completed the challenge in full gear or carrying heavy packs. Each received a commemorative coin, and awards will be given for the largest team and the team that raised the most money.
The UA also offered participants $10 football game tickets for the Grambling State University game, with a portion of that amount going to the Tower Challenge.
Follow Marissa Heffernan on Twitter.