By Michael Miller
The University of Cincinnati marked the anniversary of the 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., on Monday with its annual 9/11 Memorial Stair Run at Nippert Stadium.
Organized in 2015 by UC’s Office of Veterans Programs & Services, the Memorial Stair Run challenges participants to climb 2,071 steps at the stadium representing the steps in the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
Most first-year students at UC were not even born when al-Qaeda terrorists flew hijacked airliners into New York’s tallest buildings and the Pentagon.
Passengers aboard a fourth airliner, United Flight 93, fought back against the hijackers. They prevented the terrorists from flying their plane into the White House or the U.S. Capitol, the likely targets according to the 9/11 Commission Report. Instead, the plane crashed in a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, which was later dedicated to the memories of the passengers and crew as a national memorial.
UC College of Arts and Sciences journalism Professor Jeffrey Blevins remembers that fateful day.
He had just started teaching journalism at Central Michigan University after earning a doctoral degree. His department chair stopped at his office to tell him a plane had struck a building in New York. Blevins immediately checked his computer for news updates and saw that a second plane had struck the south tower.
“I was stunned,” he recalled.
He immediately called his wife, who was home with their 2-year-old son, but she was already watching the news.
“No one could think or talk about anything else that day,” Blevins said. “On campus we kept checking for news online, and at lunch we huddled around television sets for any update. Finally, CMU canceled classes that afternoon.”
Blevins said the attacks were both frightening and unmooring. Air travel was grounded. Public events were canceled. And across the country, people were trying to reach loved ones who were in harm’s way.
“When I went home, the world was a lot scarier than when I left that morning, especially with a young family,” Blevins said. “The world had so suddenly changed, but we didn’t understand exactly how. We didn’t know if it was ‘over,’ and it didn’t seem like there would ever be a ‘normal’ again.”
“For many students, 9/11 is just history,” said Terence Harrison, manager of UC’s Veterans Programs & Services.
But details of that day remain vivid to him, he said.
“I remember how chaotic it was, watching everything unfold on TV,” the U.S. Army veteran said.
Harrison said it’s important to remember the 2,977 victims and first responders who died that day. Since 2001, many other first responders have died from diseases they likely contracted from working around the toxic and airborne debris.
“I’m just thankful we’re able to do this,” Harrison said.