UI ROTC hosts fifth annual 9/11 stair climb memorial on campus

The UI ROTC hosted their fifth annual stair climbing 9/11 remembrance event, with students and veterans alike sharing their perspectives on and memories of the attack.

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UI ROTC hosts fifth annual 9/11 stair climb memorial on campus

UI ROTC students participate in the 9/11 Memorial Run in Carver Hawkeye Arena, on Wednesday, September 11th, 2019. In rememberance of the lives of first responders and servicemen lost in the events of and succeeding the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the UI ROTC program puts on a stair climb each year.. (Tate Hildyard/The Daily Iowan).

UI ROTC students participate in the 9/11 Memorial Run in Carver Hawkeye Arena, on Wednesday, September 11th, 2019. In rememberance of the lives of first responders and servicemen lost in the events of and succeeding the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the UI ROTC program puts on a stair climb each year.. (Tate Hildyard/The Daily Iowan).

Tate Hildyard

UI ROTC students participate in the 9/11 Memorial Run in Carver Hawkeye Arena, on Wednesday, September 11th, 2019. In rememberance of the lives of first responders and servicemen lost in the events of and succeeding the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the UI ROTC program puts on a stair climb each year.. (Tate Hildyard/The Daily Iowan).

Tate Hildyard

Tate Hildyard

UI ROTC students participate in the 9/11 Memorial Run in Carver Hawkeye Arena, on Wednesday, September 11th, 2019. In rememberance of the lives of first responders and servicemen lost in the events of and succeeding the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the UI ROTC program puts on a stair climb each year.. (Tate Hildyard/The Daily Iowan).

Chloe O'Connor, News Reporter

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Surrounded by the stench of sweat and the heavy thud of boots on metal, more than 100 cadets carried heavy rucksacks up and down the stairs of Carver-Hawkeye Arena in remembrance of the civilians, first responders, and military personnel who were killed in the 9/11 attacks.

As the nation honored the 18th anniversary of the deadly terrorist attacks, the University of Iowa Army ROTC programs on Wednesday hosted its fifth annual 9/11 Memorial Workout Stair Climb in memory of the thousands who died on Sept. 11, 2001.

UI Army ROTC Cadet John Sullivan said the organization’s goal is to climb 110 flights of stairs — the equivalent of the height of the World Trade Center towers.

“That was the height that some of the first responders climbed to carrying their heavy equipment, things such as gas masks, tanks, and all the heavy equipment that they carry with them,” Sullivan said.

Tate Hildyard
A UI ROTC student takes a brief rest during the 9/11 Memorial Run in Carver Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, September 11th, 2019. In rememberance of the lives of first responders and servicemen lost in the events of and succeeding the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the UI ROTC program puts on a stair climb each year.. (Tate Hildyard/The Daily Iowan).

He said that many participants elect to carry a rucksack weighing 35 pounds to simulate this equipment.

Public Affairs Officer Cadet Brady Hoskins said a driving force behind the stair climb is the desire for a younger generation of military personnel, who may not remember the 9/11 attacks, to reconcile the struggle of those who do remember with their personal reasons for joining the Armed Forces.

“I think it is very important that these students are participating, because these are the future leaders of America’s military,” Hoskins said. “A lot of them might not even remember these events; a lot of them were very young or not even born yet. We are trying to get them to still remember this is why we fight, and this is why we do what we do.”

RELATED: Iowans who witnessed 9/11 attacks reflect

Lt. Col. Nicole Capozzi of the Air Force ROTC has vivid memories of the tragedy, and said she recalls having just entered active duty when the events occurred. 

Tate Hildyard
A UI ROTC student takes a water break during the 9/11 Memorial Run in Carver Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, September 11th, 2019. In rememberance of the lives of first responders and servicemen lost in the events of and succeeding the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the UI ROTC program puts on a stair climb each year.. (Tate Hildyard/The Daily Iowan).

“I just remember the images that started coming over that TV of the Twin Towers and the plane crashing into it,” Capozzi said. “I immediately thought back to when I was a child and being on the top floors of those buildings with my family and looking out above the clouds. It was really the best feeling in the world. Then to see images of the planes flying into it was a very surreal moment. It looked like a movie, but you knew it wasn’t.”

RELATED: Army ROTC comments on combat positions opening to women

Capozzi emphasized that disasters such as 9/11 can strike suddenly and without warning. She said she wants future military personnel to understand what they are signing up for, and that requires an understanding of their nation’s history. 

Since its inception, the stair-climb event has been a tool for a younger generation to personalize and empathize with the pain  the 9/11 attacks inflicted upon Americans.

“We have all grown up in the aftermath of 9/11,” Sullivan said. “This is a great way to memorialize the first responders and all the service members who came after them who sacrificed their lives for our country.”

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