As bagpipes played “Amazing Grace,” second-year fire science major Jackson Rumble pulled on the nearly 50 pounds of fire gear and made his way to the front of a growing line inside the Vincennes University Physical Education Complex on Wednesday evening
Rumble and more than 50 other students and members of the public participated in the second annual Memorial Stair Climb, commemorating the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks by replicating the 110-story star climb firefighters made inside the World Trade Center.
The students went up and down the bleachers inside the complex — with only those steps going counting toward the final total. It took them four laps to reach 110.
Rumble, who helped organize the inaugural event last year held at Updike Hall, and 15 others completed the climb wearing full firefighting gear.
The event was sponsored by seven VU clubs and organizations, including the Emergency Service Association, VU Housing & Resident Life, Eta Sigma Iota, Sigma Pi and the VU Homeland Security and Fire Science programs.
The event was attended by more than 100 people, including several first responders and Mayor Joe Yochum, a former city fire chief.
While few of the VU student-organizers and participants have memories of the terrorist attacks, Battalion Chief Richard Ashby of the Vincennes Fire Department noted that this was a completely student-led event, a testament to how powerful the events of that day remain.
A handful of the Memorial Stair Climb participants could vividly recall the way 9/11 has shaped the nation. Bronie Stiles, wearing a stars and stripes bandana, was one of them.
A retired health-care worker, Stiles said the event “brought it all back.”
She admitted she couldn’t hold back a few tears as she climbed that first flight and thought of all the firefighters going up 110 stories into the burning World Trade Center towers.
Though most of the VU student participants don’t have memories of 9/11 ingrained in their minds, it was clear that they heeded Rumble’s words from earlier in the evening, when he told the crowd that the event is about remembrance.
“Please maintain a certain level of respect when completing the climb,” he said. “There are no points for finishing first.
“This isn’t going to be easy, so please, let’s support one another.”