9/11 Stair Climb at Red Rocks

Neil H. Devlin, Mullen Sports Information Director
There was a (pant!) Mullen contingent (wheeze!) at Wednesday’s (gasp!) 11th Colorado Stair Climb (leg burn) at Red Rocks Amphitheater (lung burn!).

The event is a fundraiser to honor the 343 firefighters and 3,000 others who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.
The Mustangs were among the estimated 2,500 who made nine counter-clockwise loops around the famed music venue that is similar in height and length to the 110-story World Trade Center towers that horrifically went down that day.

Mullen students and administration were as moved and motivated as any attendee on a glorious Colorado morning at the foot of the Rocky Mountains or firefighters who simulated the fateful climb in a downtown Denver office building.

Katie Schneringer, who teaches U.S. History at Mullen, said being involved with the climb is an ideal way to get the kids involved with history “and knew our kids would love it.”

They did. A year ago, only two Mullen students participated. On Tuesday, there were 19.

“Mrs. Schneringer offered a great opportunity to commemorate such a horrible tragedy and recognize those who unfortunately died during 9/11,” senior Ashley Parilla said. “It’s a good event to have for those who lost their lives.”

Every Mustang on hand either wasn’t born yet or had just come into the world, but it didn’t matter. It has held their attention.  It’s the former for senior Sarah Galligan, who said “it’s different than in New York, but it’s awesome.”
She knows. Her father, Casey, she said, was literally working across the street when the towers were attacked and collapsed.  “It’s emotional for my family,” she said. “I’m fine with it. I wasn’t born. And I totally believe in (the climb).”
Another senior, Dominic Jablonsky, said he was on hand “because I want to support everyone who died and remember their legacy. ”In taking a Recent American History course, 12th-grader Henrietta Rasmussen said she wanted to attend “and see what it was all about. I wasn’t there, obviously, when it happened, but it’s cool to learn about it and I’ve understood more about it as I’ve gone along. I feel strongly about it.”
Citizens who participated in the loops up-and-down the adjacent stairs to the bleacher-style rows of stands in the acclaimed and acoustically perfect venue were joined by more than 1,000 firefighters alongside, including in full regalia, simulating their fallen peers/heroes.

In addition, stair-climbers were asked to wear badges with the names, ranks and stations of the murdered firefighters. It was both fitting and moving. Some participants sported more than one badge and Schneringer said she also attaches hers to her Mullen identification for the rest of the school year.
“I don’t know who (mine) was, but it’s like I’m a part of his story, which is cool,” Rasmussen said.

Those who organized the event 11 years ago were practically moved to tears with the outstanding turnout.  Twenty-four-year firefighter Shawn Duncan, who operates out of Denver’s West Metro, said he “got together with some buddies in 2009,” decided to do it and remains amazed at what it has turned into today.
“It’s just awesome,” he said.

The event has gotten to the point that there were 50 climbs nationally on Wednesday and some $5 million has been raised for various organizations that proudly support New York Firefighters as well as the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

Duncan underlined the importance because there have been an additional 200 9/11-related deaths since the mass murders.  It’s as if the hurt won’t go away, but Duncan and he and his suddenly new 2,500 friends refuse to accept it.
“It blows me away every year,” he said, while consuming some pizza and much-needed water that were part of several, gracious donations to the event. “We just get more and more people to support the cause, just spend the day with us, climb some stairs and be at Red Rocks on a beautiful Colorado day. You can’t beat it. It’s a beautiful venue.”

Shannon Byerly, who had a son graduate from Mullen, currently has two children in the school and will have another go through Mustangs doors in the future, said she felt compelled to join the climb at the behest of one of her kids and was thrilled she did.  “I’ll do it again,” she said.
Like millions of Americans, she recalled the tragedy as “eye-opening and it has been tough to deal with, but I feel great about (Wednesday’s gathering). Next year, we should encourage more people to do it.”

Celebrating the brave and the heroes, all agreed, shouldn’t stop. Nor will they stop the climb.

“It’s an emotional day that comes every year, but we keep going,” Duncan said of 9/11. “We just want to keep doing the job the 343 can’t do. I don’t see an end to this in the future. This stuff helps you heal.

“We may have (been beaten that day), but we’re not broken.”