By Rowan Hetzer
Approximately 350 individuals lined up in Nippert Stadium at 6:46 a.m. on September 11th, 2023 to partake in UC’s eighth annual Memorial Stair Run. The event is held each year to commemorate the bravery of first responders and pay respects to the victims of one of the most unforgettable acts of terrorism on American soil.
Students, staff, and community members participated by either ascending 2,071 stairs, walking laps around the football field, or completing 3 laps around the stadium and climbing 2 sets of staircases. All of the options symbolically represent the 110 floors of the World Trade Center that many first responders and victims had to climb.
The event is a collaborative effort between multiple UC groups. This includes Veterans Programs & Services, UC Army ROTC, Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps, and UC Student Affairs.
Cadet Josephine Rizzo is a third-year at UC and ran with her ROTC detachment.
“I run with the Army group because I know this is for a bigger purpose. 9/11 is a very impactful and tragic moment in American history,” Rizzo stated.
Multiple first responders took part in the challenge and production of the event, with some having first-hand experiences with the incident over 22 years ago.
Officer Steve Watt played the bagpipes during this year’s opening flag ceremony, as well as for countless other memorial ceremonies over the years. Additionally, just 7 days after the attack, he played the bagpipes at 3 funerals of victims of the terrorist attack.
“I worked with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office at the time. I got detailed up there and it was so surreal. I walked into the airport, they called us up front and the pilot came down to the gate. He goes, ‘When we go up there if there’s a problem, I’ll tip the wings to let you know.’ He gets close to me and says, ‘If anything happens, you get up there and you do your job.’ I’ll never forget that,” Watt stated.
Officer Watt was not the only one at the stair run who had an unforgettable experience surrounding 9/11. UC photographer Joseph Fuqua II was a staff photographer and photo editor for the Cincinnati Enquirer at the time.
“We had just published the daily newspaper so we had to publish a bulldog edition. There were over 4,000 images we sorted through. We can’t run this. We can’t run this. We can’t run this. Stuff like that is burned into your memory because you see it all the time,” Fuqua said.
Some participants in the stair run, especially first-year students, were not born when the attack occurred, but still ran in honor of the victims and to show their support for those affected by the tragedy.
Freshmen Cooper Ardaiolo and Max Dittman took on the challenge despite not having a direct personal connection to the events.
“My grandpa was in the Marines, and although he wasn’t directly involved, the attack impacted a lot of those branches. It was a tragic loss not only to the first responders and the victims but also to the country as a whole. I wasn’t born yet, but it is still sad to learn about,” said Ardaiolo.
The UC community lost two members to the 9/11 attacks: Catherine Salter, a University of Cincinnati graduate and a claims manager who worked at the Aon Insurance Group New York office in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, and Lt. Col. David M. Scales, who perished in the attack on the Pentagon. He graduated from UC in 1979 with a degree in music theory and composition. The two were recognized in the opening speech given by Dr. Nicole Mayo, the Interim Vice President for Student Affairs.
The memorial stair run concluded 56 minutes later, which represented the time people had to evacuate the south tower before it collapsed.