WEST MEAD TOWNSHIP — 20 years ago America was brought to its knees.
At 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, the first plane crashed into the North Tower of the Twin Towers in New York City.
Over the next 102 minutes, a second plane would crash into the South Tower, and both towers would collapse, killing thousands.
To honor those who perished, and honor the first responders who gave their lives to save as many as they could, fire departments in Crawford County came together Friday for the inaugural Crawford County Memorial Stair Climb.
The event, which was thrown together in a couple of weeks, featured 100 registered climbers who took 17 trips up and down the stairs at the Crawford County Fairgrounds Grandstand.
The 17 trips up and down came close to equaling 2,071 steps, the amount it took first responders to get to the top floors of the Twin Towers.
The event was organized by several departments, including Meadville Fire Department’s Evan Kardosh and West Mead 2 Fire Chief James Pratt.
Kardosh addressed the crowd before the event kicked off, telling the story of
the day, and giving an inspiring message.
“In 102 minutes almost 3,000 people lost their lives,” he said. “More than 3,000 families were changed.”
He said that the grandstands the event was held at held 4,000 people if they were all packed together, and then asked the crowd to imagine if three quarters of the grandstands never came home ever again.
“When your legs burn and you take deep breaths,” said Kardosh, “imagine what it was like on that September morning.”
For Pratt, the events were something that reminded him of other times when the country came together. After the pain of 9/11, men and women throughout the country put their differences aside to grieve and help their fellow man. “Pearl Harbor was a rallying point in the 40s,” he said. “9/11 was a rally point too, one the country needed.”
In attendance at the event was Titusville’s James Brown. Brown is a lieutenant for the Titusville Fire Department.
For Brown, the event allowed him to pay respects to those who put their lives on the line.
“It means a lot to pay tribute to those whose lives were lost that day,” he said.
Brown was in sixth grade in 2001, and says he didn’t have a “grasp of the reality of what happened.” Being so young, and so far away, the only thing he remembers is the lack of planes in the sky.
One man in attendance will never be able to forget the reality of that fateful day — Meadville Paramedic Gerard Glock. Glock worked in public service in New York in 2001, and found himself one block away when the second tower fell.
“There’s no way to describe it,” he said. “It was like Hell on Earth.”
20 years later, Glock has yet to return to Ground Zero. He spent six weeks at the site helping, and never wishes to ever return.
While he will never forget what happened that day, he feels as though the same can’t be said for America today.
“We forgot,” he said. “The last 20 years we haven’t had an attack and people forgot.”
He believes it starts at home, and hopes that parents will take the time to
teach their kids about 9/11, so they can be educated about the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor.
With young kids in attendance at the event, the stair climb is just one way that the community can keep 9/11 in our memories.
“I appreciate (the event),” said Glock. “It’s a good gesture.”
The organizers of the event hope to keep this an annual tradition. Next year they hope to see even more first responders and members of the public alike climbing stairs to remember those who lost their lives.
In light of the attendance at the somewhat last-minute event, Crawford County Commissioner Eric Henry said that 9/11 is clearly still on peoples minds, and that if we keep gathering to remember the events of that day, “Those feelings will never go away.”
Dvorkin can be reached by email at Gdvorkin@titusvilleherald.com.