Wayne Community College’s Public Safety Division will hold its annual 9/11 Stair Climb this Saturday, on the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
WCC emergency medical and law enforcement students and their instructors will climb the equivalent of 78 stories (38 laps on a “track” of stairwells and breezeways between buildings) to honor those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
The participants will pay tribute to the 403 public safety personnel – 343 New York City Fire Department firefighters, 23 New York City Police Department officers, and 37 Port Authority Police Department officers – who died in the line of duty that day.
The 78 flights replicate the effort made by firefighters and the signify the highest floor they were able to reach in the South Tower before it collapsed.
Members of the public are invited to attend to encourage the participants.
WCC Paramedic Instructor David Cuddeback initiated the run and leads the students in the memorial exercise every year.
“Remembering and honoring those who sacrificed their lives is important and we are going to do as it should be done,” Cuddeback said.
The first portion of the event during which the students will be indoors will be streamed live on the college’s Facebook page (@wayneccnc). During that time participants are given their charge, choose the person in whose name they will climb, suit up including full turnout gear for some, and gather for a prayer. That will begin at 9 a.m.
Having the students thinking about specific individuals while experiencing some of what they did, drives home the concept of selflessness, Cuddeback said.
“As soon as the students come out, they begin the circuit. They help each other when the going gets rough by taking others’ gear and giving moral support,” said WCC Public Information Officer Tara Humphries. “It is incredibly moving to witness. I recommend that those who can come out for it do so, even if for just a few minutes. Plus, the students appreciate the encouragement they get from those on the sidelines.”
Some paramedic students will wear turnout gear and carry equipment such as tanks and hoses that add 50 to 75 pounds to their bodies. Law enforcement students wear their protective vests.
As the event progresses, law enforcement cadets usually take some of the clothing and equipment from their first responder brethren and wear and carry it. It is not uncommon for them to continue the circuit beyond the target number of laps so that everyone finishes together.
The run takes place in the exterior stairwells and breezeways that run between the Azalea and Spruce buildings on the college’s main campus in Goldsboro. Spectators can park in the lots at the back of the campus to access its internal “quad” that the activity will face.
A memorial to “represent and honor the lives that were lost” in Afghanistan and Iraq is also planned, said Cuddeback, who is also the director of Wayne County Emergency Medical Services where veterans of both conflicts work.
“With our upcoming 9-11 memorial, we want to recognize three populations that were directly impacted by the events of 9-11: first responders at the Towers, soldiers and Marines killed in Iraq, and soldiers and Marines killed in Afghanistan,” Cuddeback said.
Also during the event, attendees have the opportunity to contribute nonperishable foods that will be added to the items that participants in the Second Annual POW/MIA Ruck March will carry and contribute. That 12-mile trek is a project of the Air Force Sergeants Association Chapter 371 of Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.
Attendees are reminded that the college requires that masks be worn outdoors when social distancing cannot be maintained.
In 2017, the N.C. General Assembly designated Sept. 11 of each year as “North Carolina First Responder Day” to recognize the huge sacrifices made by first responders at the World Trade Center attack in New York.