UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS (WCIA) — As the sun rose over Memorial Stadium Wednesday morning, 300 people were running stairs.
It was not just an exercise for the four UI ROTC units though. They all ran 1,980 steps, the same amount as the first responders going up the World Trade Center 18 years ago. Just like the country rallied together then, they want the city to rally in remembrance.
“It’s about community in my opinion,” says Navy ROTC Operations Officer Alexa Emano. “Even though we’re just the ROTC units, it’s about coming together and upholding tradition, honoring those who came before us and just being apart of something bigger than yourself.”
Some members of local fire departments also joined the cadets in the climb. In previous years on the anniversary, ROTC would plan a memorial run through campus. One of the organizers says he had the idea to do more.
“A lot of people on this campus were infants or toddlers, maybe not even born when 9/11 occurred,” says Navy ROTC Commanding Officer Anthony Corapi. “So this is a good way to do something different and to really commemorate what the first responders did going up those towers that day.”
ROTC cadet Joy Kim was only three years old during 9/11. As the daughter of a Korean immigrant who was a member of the military during the attacks, she says these kind of memorials help her understand.
“An event as significant as that, it kind of brings the world together in a way,” says Kim. “Because we’re all at that point fighting for the same cause. And for me to be a part of it is a really great honor.”
Organizers say this year’s event was a trial run. They are hoping to open things up to the public and get more people involved. Next year’s event will be the first one to include cadets who were born after 9/11.