New Jersey Police Officer Richard Rodriguez was one of nearly 3,000 victims that was killed in the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.
Seventeen years later, Rodriguez’s picture hanged on a lanyard around EKU freshman Devin Bollands’ neck at the annual EKU 9/11 Stair Climb in remembrance.
This is the eighth annual stair climb at Keene Hall that honors those who lost their lives in the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon building and the crash of United Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.
Bolland, who is from northern Virginia, said that his attendance in the annual 9/11 Stair Climb was important to represent his father, who is a firefighter.
“I wanted to represent my dad’s fire station back home,” Bolland said.
Bolland climbed with his friend Amy Lemming, a freshman from Ohio. Lemming was also there to support her father, who is a firefighter as well.
Each participant wore a lanyard with a picture and information of a victim from the attacks as they recreated the 110 flights of the World Trade Center. EKU ROTC members wore full field dress and students of the Fire and Safety program wore full turnout gear as they climbed the steps of Keene Hall.
The 9/11 Day of Remembrance at EKU is held throughout the day with various events beginning with the memorial service at 8:30 a.m. and finishing with the stair climb at 7:45 p.m. A Red Cross blood drive and Holiday Cards for Heroes were other functions held throughout the day.
Kaleb Lotz, a freshman business major, also attended the event.
“It’s important to have this event because this was the most deadly attack on U.S. soil, and if we forget, it can happen again,” Lotz said.
Before the stair climb, participants gathered in the Center for the Arts for the evening ceremony that featured a video montage of live footage, newscasts, voicemails and 9-1-1 calls from that early morning in September.
The video was followed by this year’s keynote speaker, Former FBI Special Agent and bomb technician Kevin Miles.
Miles spoke about where he was, and what he had to do on 9/11 and in the days following. A native of Queens, New York, Miles became emotional remembering the World Trade Center being built as a child.
“I watched those buildings go up as boy, and I watched them come down as a man in my forties,” Miles said. “Never forget.”
The EKU Stair Climb was hosted by College of Justice and Safety, EKU Housing and the EKU Center for the Arts.
Eric Wharton, 21, fire protection administrator major and the coordinator of the stair climb, said the most impactful part of the event was the first flight walkthrough that was kept silent to remember the fallen.
“When we begin the stair climb, the first walkthrough is silent and that is really powerful,” Wharton said. “Really organizing, getting the speaker and the symbolism of it all is really impactful to me. All the little things like the steel beam from the towers, the way Keene is lit up, make this event as a whole really great.”
William Hicks, associate professor for the fire protection and safety engineering technology program, was a senior at EKU and watched the towers crumble on television in Ashland 117 with his teachers and other students.
“Now we are getting to a time where students coming to college weren’t even alive during 9/11. This event is important to keep the cultural memory so that post 9/11 students will have background, Hicks said. “The things that we teach here in this program are what helped keep those buildings up as long as they were even with all the heat and damage.”