GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Tuesday marks 17 years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks shocked the nation and brought us together in mourning for those killed in New York City, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon.
Grand Rapids hosted several events Tuesday, remembering the 2,977 men, women and children who lost their lives that day and honoring the heroes of Sept. 11, 2001.
At the Kirkhof Center on Grand Valley State University’s Allendale campus, students placed nearly 3,000 flags, each representing a person who died in the attacks. Flags also blanketed GVSU’s Grand Rapids campus near the Carillon Tower. The flags will sit out all day Tuesday.
Students say the hour it took them to install the flags was a time of reflection.
"I think it’s a very sobering thing to do, honestly, just to sit here and set up each flag. I mean, as you can see there are so many flags. I think it just really sticks with me and I think it stuck with everyone else there, each life lost. There were so many," said Morgan Mattler, who is also the vice president of the GVSU Student Senate.
The Boy Scouts of America also held their traditional daylong flag salute outside the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids. From dawn to dusk, anyone is welcome to stand in line and salute the flag for a minute or two.
The salute is meant to honor military members and first responders while reflecting on the attacks. Organizers expect hundreds of people will take part in Tuesday’s touching tribute.
"When you got in line you had a lot of emotion that came over you and when you got to the front line you just start thinking about that day, what happened, the newscasts, the pictures that you saw, the people's lives that were impacted," Michele Deblaay recounted. "It's still to this day, very emotional."
In Kalamazoo, firefighters and community members repeatedly scaled the stairs at Wings Event Center until they climbed the equivalent of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center, symbolically completing New York firefighters’ journey on 9/11 to save others.
Organizers of the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb say it’s meant to ensure that each of the 343 firefighters who sacrificed their lives that day is never forgotten. Climbers wore badges with the names and photos of the firefighters who died when the towers collapsed.
Christopher Daniels takes part in the stair climb every year. He says it's hard to imagine what those firefighters faced as they stormed into the building.
"I can't even imagine, going that many flights of stairs, carrying appartuses and all their gear on and just the adrenaline they had and what was going on," said Daniels. "(It's) something that has never been seen on this soil before."
The annual climb is organized by the Fraternal Order of Leatherheads Kalamazoo, a group of firefighters in the area. This was the sixth year for the event.