While most Denton residents were waking up to go about their day, approximately 100 UNT Air Force and Army ROTC cadets were participating in a memorial stair climb on Sept. 11.
For around 15 years, UNT’s AFROTC detachment has participated in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb to honor the fallen responders of the terrorist attacks of that day. This is the first year that the Army ROTC has joined them.
“This the first year we’re opening it to the public [too],” said Sammie Bonnie, a lieutenant colonel and detachment commander of Detachment 835. “We’ve decided to progress from cadet remembrance to community awareness.”
Bonnie said that several people have asked to join the stair climb in the past.
“It was really meaningful for the cadets that are joining the Air Force, but we realized we live in a community that strongly supports our military,” Bonnie said. “We thought, why not formalize it? We can open it up and host it [at] Apogee Stadium. The athletic department has been very gracious to allow us to use it and we’ve got the room.”
Police officers and community members also joined the AFROTC and Army ROTC in the event where they climbed the equivalent of 110 flights of stairs, which is the same amount responders had to climb in the World Trade Center that day. Audio from Flight 11 and New York Fire Department’s radio during those attacks was also played during the climb to simulate what responders heard as they were going through the buildings. Participants were soaked in sweat before the sun rose that morning.
“There aren’t very many opportunities to honor the people who sacrificed so much on such an impactful day in American history,” senior cadet Amelia Hicks said. “One of our Air Force core values is service before self and this is one of those times where that really comes into play. You get to experience their sacrifice, even if it’s only a fraction of it.”
Although she was too young to remember the attacks, Hicks said that it is a huge part of America’s identity.
“It’s something that we won’t ever forget. As a future member of the Air Force and as an American civilian, it’s definitely in my best interest to take part in honoring that.”
Bradley Huffman, Public Affairs Officer for Detachment 835, was 8 years old when the twin towers were attacked.
“I remember my dad walking me home from school that day,” Huffman said. “I wasn’t really familiar with what was happening, but I remember that night, I was watching the president give a speech to the nation and something really stuck with me because it was a really important day for our nation. [My dad] said that something really bad had happened to our country.”
While sophomore cadet Caleb Fay was too young to remember the attacks, he said that he understands that he grew up in an entirely new world and it helps him understand the significance in participating in events like this.
“My father is in the fire service, so I was brought up on the values of understanding how significant it is to honor fallen warriors, fallen heroes,” Fay said. “Speaking for the entire detachment, we understand that the men and women who dedicated their lives on 9/11, we should never forget. If they can dedicate their lives, we can dedicate a few flights of stairs.”
Military members, first responders and civilian alike ran laps up and down the stairs of Apogee Stadium during the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb Sept. 11, 2019 to honor those who lost their lives in one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in U.S. history. Image by Jelani GIbson
Featured Image: Members of the AFROTC Detachment 835 jog across Apogee Stadium as they participate in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb. Image by Isabel Anes