Otsego students join local FD in stair climb honoring 9/11 firefighters

Allegan County

OTSEGO, Mich., (WOOD) — Usually, classrooms have books, supplies, projectors and computers. But Friday morning, the classroom for all the students at Otsego High School was their own Bulldog Stadium.

The lesson plan centered on America’s darkest day and the firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Otsego Fire Department Lt. Todd Campbell and two fellow firefighters decided to honor fallen 9/11 firefighters by holding a stair climb at Bulldog Stadium. Their goal was 22,000 steps, or 9.5 times around the stadium — the equivalent of the World Trade Center’s 110 stories.

“Walking up flights of stairs with extra gear to be able to survive in those conditions is quite rough,” Campbell said.

Campbell and his colleagues extended an invitation and learning opportunity to the next generation at Otsego High.

“Most of the guys want to do it in the community and bring along the high schoolers that weren’t around and help them remember and understand what happened that day,” Campbell said.

Their invitation was overwhelmingly accepted, when the entire student body of more than 700 coming to Bulldog Stadium. Senior Ali Janke was among those who helped climb the stairs in silence and solidarity.

Otsego High School students joined a local fire department in a stair climb honoring 9/11 firefighters.

“(This is to) honor the things that happened in the past, but also highlight how our country bounced back from a moment that was so devastating at the time and just how we continue to grow and be strong,” Janke said.

Freshman Tyler Campbell pondered how the country united in the days following the attacks.

“It’s a happy time and a sad time,” Campbell explained. “It was a sad time that that many people died, but it’s a happy time because it brought America closer.”

Kristin Elkire was in her first year of teaching at Otsego High School in 2001 when that Tuesday morning changed everyone’s lives forever.

“A fellow teacher came in and told me to turn on the television,” Elkire said. “So I went and turned it on and just sat in disbelief, watching the events… just a lot of fear and confusion and not understanding what was happening.”

The students she teaches now had not yet been born when the attacks happened 20 years ago. Still, the next generation is taking to heart what they learn in their mind and on their feet.

“When you’re not a part of it, it feels a little different,” Elkire said. “The further away we go from 9/11, 2001, the more we really need to keep it a part of our collective consciousness and just make sure that it’s something that we can learn from.”

While organizers are looking to do this next year, the stair climb is also a fundraiser for the Fallen Firefighters Foundation. Its goal is $1,000. You can donate online.

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