Climbing to commemorate, Airmen honor 9/11 first responders

  • Published
  • By Julian Hernandez
  • 433rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Ahead of the 22nd anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 433rd Civil Engineer Squadron honored the memory of first responders killed in the attacks by participating in a 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb outside the Pfingston Reception Center.

More than 25 Airmen from the 433rd CES climbed the equivalent of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center. This is the first year the annual event, held since 2016, included participants from the entire squadron. In years past, climbers have typically been from the squadron’s firefighting, explosive ordinance disposal, and emergency management contingents.

Before and after the climb, participants took time to reflect on the significance of continuing to remember the lives lost on 9/11.

“I think this way of remembering 9/11 is important because it represented the turning of an era” said Maj. Rachel Rupp, 433rd CES Operations flight commander. “I was 13 when it happened… it motivated me to come into the service.”

Rupp noted remembrances like this are not just important for their role in honoring the sacrifices made on 9/11, but also for their ability to build and maintain bonds between the generation of first responders serving today.

“When we do things like this together it builds camaraderie” Rupp pointed out, after being the first to complete the climb. “We sweat, we get tired, we enter a mindset where we can block out other things that may be bothering us.”

Even for Airmen who were too young to have vivid personal memories of the attacks like Senior Airman Hunter Sykes, a 433rd CES firefighter who was 2-years-old on 9/11, the importance of commemorative events like the stair climb is clear.

“It means a lot to everybody here” Sykes said. “For a few years now, I’ve wanted to be a firefighter. That’s what I joined the Air Force to do. I love being a firefighter, and remembering the guys who came before us who sacrificed everything… it's important to all of us.”

In comments after the climb, Senior Master Sgt. Joshua Moss, the 433rd CES fire chief and one of the organizers of the event, noted the painful lessons learned on 9/11 and its aftermath are more relevant than ever in today’s constantly evolving security climate.

“As we look ahead to being prepared to face future adversaries, I think it’s even more important to remember the sacrifices and challenges faced by the first responders on 9/11” Moss said. “Because now we have additional pieces we have to consider. That’s one of the reasons why we will always continue to do this every year.”