With the American flag proudly flying from a 105 foot firetruck ladder, Montgomery High School Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, JROTC, walked 2,071 steps at MISD Stadium. The Montgomery Fire Department, MISD Police, and principal Dr. Andria Schur also participated. Each step was taken in remembrance of the 343 First Responders who, while climbing 2,071 steps at the World Trade Center, lost their lives in New York 19 years ago.
“ROTC decided to host the 9/11 stair climb because it is the right thing to do to honor great men and women who sacrificed for this nation,” Major David Bower said.
With the sounds of thunder in the far off distance, the rain held off, but the cool un-Texas-like breeze blew. The ceremony started with MHS JROTC junior Michael Moser and Lake Creek High School ROTC student Allyson Rollfing singing the National Anthem.
“I was nervous, but excited to be a part of something like this,” Moser said. “Most kids don’t even remember what happened that day except that two towers were hit. It was a lot more than that; around 3000 Americans lost their lives, and it was the biggest act of terrorism to ever happen on American soil.”
Next, JROTC senior Owen Martin said a prayer. Afterwards, Bower spoke about events that occurred on 9/11. While most students weren’t even alive in 2001, the impact of 9/11 on their families has affected them.
“I lost an uncle working on the 18th floor,” senior Hunter John said. “Instead of leaving like he was supposed to, he made sure that all the women and others got out before he did, and then he eventually ran back into the building and didn’t come back out.”
Participants climbed up and down each staircase not once, but twice. Master Sergeant Fred Martin walked with his 25 pound air pack and the fire department wore all their gear, which added an additional 50 pounds. New to MHS, Schur wore her Marine Mom shirt. Her oldest son is an officer in the Army while her youngest son recently returned from Hawaii where he was stationed as a Marine.
“On many levels, it was a flashback, anybody who experienced that time can remember exactly where they were,” Schur said. “Looking at where we were then and where we are now, we were so united as a country; everyone came together.”
About halfway through, senior Amanda Cruz suffered from dehydration, causing her to pause for water. One firefighter stayed with her. When she resumed climbing, she was well behind the other ROTC members and firefighters; however, when everyone else finished their 2,071 stairs, they filed in line behind Cruz and continued climbing with her until she completed all 2,071 stairs as well.
“It was very encouraging knowing I wasn’t going to be left behind, that they were there for me to support me,” Cruz said. “I knew I was going to get through it with them. That’s the thing about ROTC: one team, one fight.”
While the number of people allowed to participate was limited due to COVID, ROTC hopes to continue this new tradition for all of the Montgomery community.
“Next year we hope to take it to a level that’s almost incomprehensible,” Martin said. “I want to have as many participants as we possibly can.”