Thirteen years ago, Sept. 11, 2001, a Tuesday, I was sitting in my first period computer class at Stevenson Middle School, at 8:46 AM when an airplane struck the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York. I can still recall my teacher turning on the television while students gazed into the dark corner of the computer lab. We were sure it was an accident, some sort of malfunction with the aircraft, anything but an attack. Then the second plane crashed into the second tower, and even middle school students knew it was anything but a mistake.
Weeks before that day, in the summer of 2001, I joined fellow theater classmates on a trip to New York City. I fell in love with photography in New York. I photographed the Twin Towers, among many other sites, and now they were disappearing right in front of my eyes.
Our teacher received a telephone call, hung up, and quickly turned off the television. We students sat in the dark classroom with nothing but our imaginations, wondering what was happening in our country, to the men and women in and around those buildings, and all those called to duty that morning in New York City.
It’s always worth remembering on this anniversary day that 343 first responders died on 9/11, alongside 71 law enforcement officers.
Today in San Antonio, nearly 2,00o miles away from Ground Zero, we honored those men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty. Today was the second annual San Antonio 110-9/11 Memorial Climb. Firefighters, EMTs, police, military, and supportive civilians from all over the county gathered at The Alamodome to climb the concrete stairs in remembrance of all of the steps taken by those brave men who climbed to save lives, sacrificing their own.
An exact count of the stairs has not been made because of a last-minute change in venue from the Tower of the Americas due to “unexpected circumstances,” according to a press release. An electrical failure at the Tower earlier in the week led to the change.
Two laps around the Alamodome interior is comparable to climbing 110 floors – the number of floors in the fallen towers. The buzz of bagpipes and dead silence of all in attendance left a calm to remember and never forget. A prayer was spoken while heads were bowed and hands were held.
“It’s important to never forget this day, the good, and the bad. Those lives were not lost in vain,” said 10-year veteran SAFD firefighter Albert Salazar from Station 51 near UTSA’s main campus.
The climb began directly after a radio call at 8:46 a.m, the moment when the North Tower was struck. Men and women – 911 of them – walked through the narrow Alamodome hallway carrying 414 tags, one for each first responder and law enforcement officer killed on Sept. 11, 2001. The stairway was completely silent save for the rustle of firefighter uniforms and equipment. Eyes fell forward. One step at a time, never looking back.