Brady Miller was just 3 years old when the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.
He doesn’t remember much from the day, but as he climbed 2,076 steps inside Kenan Stadium Monday morning, he reflected on what it must have been like for first responders running into collapsing buildings that day and “how brave they were to keep doing their jobs even with all that was stacked against them at the time.”
“They worked tirelessly for days on end trying to save people,” said Miller, a sophomore in Carolina’s Army ROTC. “The least we could do is come out here and run stairs to commemorate their sacrifice and efforts that day.”
Miller was among the several hundred community members who ran 110 flights of stairs at Kenan Stadium to pay homage to the thousands of lives lost in the terrorist attacks 16 years ago. Hosted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Army ROTC, the annual run honors the victims and the first responders. The number of stairs run is the same that were in each of the World Trade Center Towers.
“Today, we honor those lives. We honor the lives of the fallen,” said Luke Boehm, the cadet commander of the Army ROTC. “We honor the first responders and police who selflessly gave their lives and we honor the members of the military and Department of Defense who have risked and given themselves fighting in the ensuing conflict.”
The Army ROTC cadets were joined by their Air Force and Navy counterparts, as well as student-athletes, community groups, local first responders and members of the Duke University ROTC.
“It means a lot to see everyone here,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “Many of us can remember very vividly the moment that we first started hearing about the friends and family who were lost, and those who served to help people at that time. Seeing you all here honoring them with every single step that you take is really something that I will carry with me all year.”
As the runners began arriving in Kenan Stadium before daybreak, Boehm asked the group to reflect on those who never made it home on Sept. 11.
“Let us never forget those who innocently went to work that day and those brave souls who went in after them,” he said. “When you get tired running in a few minutes, look to the first in front of you and the person behind you, and think of why we’re here.”
Many, like Miller who ran the steps with his fellow cadets, said they focused on the first responders who ran into the World Trade Centers to rescue those stuck inside. Others tried to physically feel the strain.
Chapel Hill firefighter Scott Carroll ran the stadium in full turnout gear. Despite the weight of the gear, Carroll was determined to climb the steps.
“The guys that we’re here to remember today, they couldn’t stop. So, all us brothers in the service with them, we can’t stop either,” he said.
The early-morning run was just one of the ways the Carolina community memorialized the 16th anniversary of the attacks, which claimed the lives of six alumni.
Folt and other University leaders attended a solemn remembrance ceremony at the 9/11 Memorial Garden near George Watts Hill Alumni Center in honor of Karleton Douglas Beye Fyfe, Mary Lou Hague, Andrew Marshall King, Ryan Ashley Kohart, Dora Menchaca and Christopher Quackenbush.
On the nearby Polk Place, members of the UNC College Republicans planted nearly 3,000 American flags in honor of the 2,997 victims who were killed in the attacks.
“This is definitely something that shouldn’t be forgotten,” said Maggie Horzempa, the secretary of the UNC College Republicans. “We really feel that something like this should be commemorated. Some of us may not remember 9/11 as much as other people do, so it’s important to take the time to reflect and be thankful for our police and first responders.”