During the Climb to Remember, participants climb the one stair for every victim of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
During the “Climb to Remember,” participants climb the one stair for every victim of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Virginia Noone

Winston-Salem community, Wake Forest students climb to remember

An annual event honors those lives lost in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001

On Sept. 11, 2001, four commercial airplanes were hijacked by al-Qaeda in a terrorist attack against the United States. Two planes struck the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, and one plane hit the Pentagon in Arlington County, Va. The final plane, which was headed for Washington, D.C., crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after the passengers on board revolted against the terrorists.

That day, 2,996 people lost their lives, including 2,977 victims and 19 hijackers who were involved with the attack.

 The very next day, senior Jack Orr was born in Huntsville, Ala., — and more than two decades later, on Friday, Sept. 9, he stood before a crowd of students and veterans inside Allegacy Federal Credit Union Stadium, wearing his ROTC uniform, to direct this year’s “Climb to Remember.”

The “No Fear” Battalion, part of Wake Forest’s ROTC, sponsors the Climb to Remember each year at Allegacy Federal Credit Union Stadium to honor the lives lost on that fateful day. Many local service members and students from various universities in Winston-Salem were at the event where participants climbed one stair for each of the nearly 3,000 victims of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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“Doing this is not easy,” Orr said. “We’re not standing at a lecture and listening about 9/11. You actually run the stadium stairs, and that is an extremely difficult task.”

The challenges were exacerbated by 90-degree temperatures that persisted into the evening — but Orr served to remind students why they were there.

 “We have a sixteen-lap standard, which will get you to the same amount of stairs that the firefighters had to climb on 9/11,” Orr said into his microphone.

As he spoke, fully suited firemen, current and retired military members, students, families, members of Wake Forest Greek Life and community members climbed the stairs in the blazing sun as the names of the victims scrolled down the stadium’s screen.


At 22, Orr sees Sept. 11 as a day that shows that the United States is unbreakable. 

“On September 11, to be an American makes me feel powerful,” Orr said. “We have many enemies around the world, and 9/11 proved that we will put our enemies down and come together as a people in a time of great confusion and despair.”

Lieutenant Col. John Flach, who chairs the military science department at Wake Forest and heads the ROTC program, noted the importance of preserving the memory of the attack’s victims.

“Nothing will ever bring back those that were taken from us,” Flach said. “But tonight, and always, we pledge to ensure the memory of their loss will never fade.”

Flach remembers the confusion, fear and grief he felt when the attacks began on Sept. 11, 2001, while he was in high school.

“I had already decided the military was the career I wanted to follow, but that day solidified my passion to serve my nation,” Flach said.

Both Orr and Flach expressed gratitude to the Winston-Salem community for their participation and support for the event. 

“Winston-Salem is a very special place,” Orr said. “This doesn’t happen everywhere, so for us to be able to unite to remember is significant — it is a big deal.”

 “Their stories are important”

Many Wake Forest students participated in the event, including senior Caroline B. Dixon.

“Climb to Remember is a great way to honor the victims and support the ROTC,” Dixon said.

Dixon admitted the heat was intense despite the 6 p.m. start time, but thought it was well worth enduring in order to remember the lives lost on 9/11.

The day of the attacks is indelibly ingrained into retired helicopter pilot and warrant officer Doug Dolson’s mind, as well. Dolson, who grew up in New York, was serving in the 82nd division when the Twin Towers were struck. One-hundred-and-twenty members of his church lost their lives that day, and his community was struck with immense grief.

“They never came home,” Dolson said, “This project holds particular sentiment to me because of this.”

In the following years, Dolson would lose four more friends in the United States’ war against Iraq. 

“Their stories are important,” Dolson said. “In previous wars, people answered the call. We have to tell the stories of veterans who fought in [the wars following] 9/11 and the amazing heroes who are out here right now.”

Today, Dolson works with Project 9:57 to keep his friends’ legacies alive through telling their stories. Project 9:57 is an outreach program that partners with veterans and educators to show students how 9/11 impacted the United States through interacting and telling accounts of that day. 

“I believe in the Lord, I believe in my family and I believe in this country,” Dolson said. “When 9/11 happened, everyone came together no matter where you came from or your political beliefs. God forbid America is attacked again — we will rally because this country is worth fighting for.”

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