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9/11 tribute draws hundreds of stair-climbers

Erin Williams, 21, a graphic communications senior from Louisville, helps other

By Rebecca Wood |

On Sept. 11 people from all over the world stopped to remember almost 3,000 people, who died 13 years ago in a terrorist attack that changed the nation forever. Many members of the Eastern community remembered 9/11 by attending a memorial ceremony at the Center of the Arts and climbing 110 flights of stairs in Keene Hall that evening.

Dan Kirstein, 23, is a graduate student in safety security and emergency management. He started up the memorial event four years ago and said planning today is a joint initiative between the College of Justice and Safety, EKU Center of the Arts and EKU Housing. He said it’s an honor to do the 9/11 Stair Climb here.

“This stair climb is a way for the public, firefighters and the US military to come together as a community and climb 110 flights of stairs, representing the length of the World Trade Center,” Kirstein said. “And feel as much of the physical strain–aches and pains—that we can duplicate and imagine what the firefighters felt on that day. While you are climbing, it’s a good time to reflect on what their sacrifices meant and show that EKU will never forget what happened that fateful day.”

While almost a year of coordinating and planning go into this type of event, Kirstein and others like him believe it’s the climbers who make it memorable.

Eric Weiss, 18, a fire, arson and investigation sophomore wore a fire suit during the whole climb while he imagined what the firefighters went through in the trade towers as hell on earth.

“A stairway is like a huge chimney when a building is on fire, extremely hot and thick toxic smoke, making it nearly impossible to breathe,” Weiss said. “Those guys didn’t just go up in full gear either. They had over 60 pounds of gear, including their air pack, mask, couple extra bottles of air and extra tools, because they didn’t know how long they would be up there. They didn’t know what they would run across. I wouldn’t want anybody to go through the hardships they went through that day.”

Many of the student-climbers, like Caleb Houchens, an 18-year-old criminal justice freshman, reflected on 9/11 by reading news articles and features on the victims’ family members and what the whole thing meant to our nation as a whole.

“It was a tragic moment in our history and even though I was in kindergarten at the time, I feel a special connection to everyone through it and felt like the climb is something I should do,” Houchens said.

Each year, Eastern Alumni come from all over the country to take part in the climb because many feel it is their duty. Ben Cobble, a 2012 graduate of the criminal justice program, works in the Fayette Corrections facility and has never missed a stair climb.

“I come to it every year. I wouldn’t miss one of them,” Cobble said. “I take that time with this community to reflect on what happened that day and all the lives lost.”

Kirstein shared a quote, originally said by an American Gold Star Mother, a member of the organization that supports mothers who have lost their children in combat. He said he feels the quote captures the essence of why events such as the 9/11 stair climb are important for everyone to do.

“The best way to remember the fallen is to live a life worthy of their sacrifice,” Kirstein said. “Words are cheap, promises get broken, but action remains the loudest voice and clearest testimony in the room.”

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Published on September 18, 2014

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