Adjustments were made to ONU’s second campus-wide 9/11 Stair Climb to obey COVID-19 safety regulations, where attendees had to wear masks and social distance while climbing. The climbing experience may have changed from the event last year, but the reason behind the event remains the same.
The Ohio Northern Veterans Organization (ONVO) continues to hold the event as a way to honor the first responders who worked relentlessly to bring others to safety on September 11th, 2001. Gabriella Carver, current president of ONVO, explains that the event is additionally important to “educate the new generation on what was going on at that time, how important it is to us as ONVO members, and how important it is to active and retired military personnel.”
The Stair Climb had previously been reserved for ROTC members and active personnel for several years, until last year. ONVO hosted the first campus-wide Stair Climb last year in honor of the first responders who worked relentlessly to bring others to safety and those who perished in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Each individual who participates is encouraged to climb up and down the stadium steps 24 times to encapsulate the strain experienced by the first responders as they climbed up 110 flights of stairs. Participants also have the option to wear backpacks weighing 60 lbs. as they climb.
This additional weight, along with the masks worn to maintain safety regulations, allows the participant to have a better awareness of the equipment the first responders carried that day. Carver relates the experience of wearing a mask to the experiences of first responders.
Participants not only had to wear masks but also socially distance to follow COVID-19 regulations. Participants were separated into his or her lane as they climbed to adhere to social distancing rules. Although there were concerns about social distancing affecting attendance rates, Head Women’s Volleyball Coach, Katie Kuhn, found the need for social distancing much more touching and personal.
“I think COVID caused it to be even a little bit more spread out but I thought that made it almost maybe a little bit more meaningful as well because you were kind of in your own space, just thinking through and letting your thoughts meditate and process a bit.”
Fewer participants were allowed into the stadium at once to ensure social distancing between each individual who participated. A signup sheet was made before the event to guarantee that low numbers of participants would be present at one time. The signup sheet allotted times in 30-minute increments from 10 am to 12 pm for students to participate and from 12 pm to 1 pm for community members to participate to promote a constant flow of people throughout the day.
The Spirit Rock on campus promoted the 10 am to 12 pm timeslot for the ONU community, which lead to around 90 people attending the event. These individuals were spread out through the day, however, as some individuals were unable to attend during the daytime hours listed on the signup sheet. These groups of people took matters into their own hands to ensure they participated in this important event. One such group was the ONU men’s lacrosse team, who arrived at the stadium at six in the morning to climb the steps.
As we are reaching the generations of college students who weren’t alive during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, it is important that groups, such as athletic teams, come together to attend events like this. Kuhn relates her hope that the stories will continue to be shared and emotions will be imparted from generation to generation.
Sharing our experiences of tragic moments, such as 9/11, is important to keep alive the memory of those who lost their lives, as well as to remember those who fought to protect others. The stair climb enables the community to come together and relate our experiences and emotions with others who may not have been able to experience those first hand. COVID-19 created difficulties in sharing stories and feelings from September 11, 2001, with each other, but the pandemic will not stop the spread of memories and recollections from that dreadful day.