Ohio State University: Stair climb at Ohio Stadium commemorates sacrifice of 9/11

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As the sun began to rise over Ohio Stadium, the sounds of fatigue were starting to circle the ’Shoe.

“My legs hurt.”

“Walk if you need to.”

“Keep going.”

Hundreds of Ohio State University students, faculty, staff and local first responders swarmed up and down the steps of the stadium for the annual stair climb to honor and commemorate the sacrifices made during and after 9/11.

Lt. Col. Mike Kelvington, professor of military science for the Army ROTC program at Ohio State, welcomed students from the university’s tri-service ROTC departments (Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force); the Student Veterans Association; athletes from men’s lacrosse, synchronized swimming and wrestling programs; military veterans; and first responders, including cadets from the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

“This 21st anniversary of 9/11 gives us the opportunity to remember those who were killed, to honor our heroes who responded and sacrificed, and to fully commit to defending our nation against those who wish us harm,” he said. “This morning, we ascend these stairs, like many first responders, policemen and citizens did, for 110 flights, the equivalent of the height of one of the World Trade Center towers, or as far as their lungs could carry them.”

Kelvington spoke to the assembled group at 5:30 Wednesday morning near the 50-yard line and encouraged them before what would be a grueling workout.

Nikki Dzurko, a senior environment, economy, development and sustainability major and member of the synchronized swimming team, said the workout was difficult but well worth it.

“I am probably the worst runner on our team,” she said, laughing. “We’re a water sport, we don’t get a ton of running in, so it’s definitely a challenge. A few of us were struggling, but we just keep moving and think about what the people who are wearing 50 pounds of gear were doing, running upstairs without taking a pause.”

Dzurko said the team participated in the stair climb last year, and said it’s a special time to remind themselves of the sacrifice of others.

“[Coach] Holly [Vargo-Brown] made us think about what it was like to put other people ahead of yourself in a situation like 9/11,” she said. “And as we were walking the stairs, thinking about that really made me feel so grateful for having all the first responders on campus and everywhere.”

First Class Midshipman Nolan Buck, a senior aviation engineering major, said it means a lot to see students outside of ROTC join them for the stair climb.

“Having them come out to support us, and something that we care about, and demonstrating that they care about it as well is really meaningful,” he said. “It helps solidify the idea of what we’re doing has purpose and gives us the motivation to keep waking up at 5 a.m. every couple of days and doing what we’re doing to not only help out the Ohio community but also our country.”

Norman Jones, vice provost and dean for undergraduate education, joined the students on the stair climb. He said he was inspired by the camaraderie of students in the ROTC department and the student athletes who joined them.

“To me, it’s the heart of what Ohio State is all about. It’s about service. Our motto is Education for Citizenship, and that’s about service,” he said. “I think ROTC exemplifies that, our athletic teams pulling together for something greater themselves. So, it’s super inspiring.”

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