Hundreds of students, university leaders and community members raced up and down the stairs of Ohio Stadium Monday to honor and commemorate the sacrifices made during and after 9/11.
The annual stair climb is hosted by The Ohio State University’s tri-service ROTC departments (Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force). Supporters included members of the Ohio State cheer team, synchronized swimming, wrestling and men’s lacrosse teams, central Ohio first responders, Columbus City Schools students, military veterans and university leaders including Executive Vice President and Provost Melissa Gilliam.
For about an hour, event supporters climbed up and down the stairs inside Ohio Stadium in the early morning hours. The exhausting effort is a reminder of the sacrifice of the thousands of first responders who rushed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, to save lives and the hundreds who did not survive.
“My freshman year it was a lot smaller of a group. It’s grown tremendously since I first came here,” said Midshipman 2nd Class Thomas Wesolowski, a third-year consumer and family financial services major. “It’s really good to see all the different communities coming out and joining us. It really brings a lot of spirit and means a lot on this day.”
Wesolowski and his peers from across the service branches finished their climb and assembled on the 50-yard line to witness Army cadets take the oath of office. The young men and women swore to defend the nation against enemies foreign and domestic – a clear reminder of the danger they face in the world after 9/11.
“It’s a very solemn occasion and we try and treat it as such,” he said. “We really just want to put out as hard as we can and make the most of this experience and really try and give back.”
Maj. Gen. Andy Munera, Commanding General, U.S. Army Cadet Command, joined the stair climb as a guest. He said it was meaningful to experience the event in historic Ohio Stadium, a home to champions and leaders, and that it was incredible to see so many members of the campus community support the stair climb.
“It just shows you the partnership that it really takes to build our military,” Munera said. “It’s academia, it’s the community all coming together to support each other and tell the story about service to our nation.”
“We’re just thankful for anybody who wants to be a part of it. Because just like our cadets and midshipmen for the student-athletes, it’s a history lesson and I think that it’s important for us to understand our history and how it’s not only impacted the nation but impacted the community,” said Lt. Col. Michael Kelvington, professor of military science for the Army ROTC program at Ohio State.
Kelvington said Ohio State was founded on agriculture and engineering, but the land-grant university also established a military tactics department. It’s a legacy that continues today.
“It’s one of the reasons why Ohio State was founded,” he said. “So we’re honoring 9/11, but we’re also honoring the history of the university and the almost 11,000 lieutenants that our program alone has produced to go serve our nation. And I think that’s an important aspect of the day as well.”