For 20 minutes Friday morning, they streamed up and down the bleachers at Miamisburg High School’s Holland Field — students, staffers, firefighters, police officers and members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Each clutched a piece of paper with the name of a 9/11 victim. When the stair stepping ceased, they exited the stadium, recited that name and rang a bell.
The 9/11 stair-climb event, now in its second year, was organized by Siobhan Tirado, a Miamisburg High School intervention specialist with a focus on history, and social studies teacher Katie Lay.
“I think it’s really important that that the community see that our high school kids just are amazing,” Tirado said. “They do amazing things daily, and a lot of that you don’t ever hear about, so the fact that we had 578 students sign up to climb, and then if you add another 150 volunteers with our band and all of our National Honor Society students, Hope Squad and student government, they all came out and volunteered and that was totally on their own time to do that.”
Tirado said she initially launched the activity many years ago as a way for her students to “viscerally feel just a little bit” of what it might have felt like for those trapped in the Twin Towers and what first responders experienced that day.
“At some point I realized that none of the students that I now teach were even alive when 9/11 happened,” she said.
Students said the event had affected them.
“It was very inspirational that you got to walk for the lives that were lost,” said Chloe Nelson, a sophomore. “I really liked doing it, just supporting everybody and ringing the bell and saying their name.”
Jacobi Jackson, a freshman, said reading aloud the name of FDNY Battalion Chief Orio Palmer helped him better connect with the tragic events of 2001′s terror attacks.
“I feel bad for the losses that took place on 9/11,” he said. “I just feel like I can help just by walking for them so they can stay remembered.”
Brad Herr, a firefighter for 15 years, eight-and-a-half of them with Miami Valley Fire District, said the event is great because it shows students “what 9/11 truly meant.”
“It means a lot that what I grew up seeing as a kid in middle school is now getting appreciated and shown that it truly meant something to the nation,” Herr said.
Charles Long, 17, of Dayton, who graduated U.S. Marines boot camp 12 days ago, said the event is “a great thing because this is such a big tragedy that happened to a lot of innocent people and as long as we keep like doing stuff like this, they’re never going to be forgotten.”
Lay said she and Tirado created the event to ensure that there was a connection to the day among the school’s students.
“There was a lot of emotion, there was a lot of confusion and stress on that day and this event kind of elicits some of those emotions and allows students to make connections with an event that doesn’t register for them,” she said. “As far as your first responders, my husband is a police officer, my sister-in-law is a dispatcher (and) my friends are all police and fire, and so just knowing what they go through on a daily basis and knowing that that would be kind of the unimaginable in that career, (we really wanted) to memorialize what happened on that day.”
Tirado, who said she served for four years in the U.S. Marines, believes students learn “so much more” when they are physically involved in something.
“Being a part of this with the first responders and the recruiters and seeing the flags flying and seeing the bagpiper, I think it just makes it much more real to them,” she said.