On the 20th anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers, participants will have the chance to complete the 9/11 Memorial Tower Challenge at Gila River Arena.
The climb consists of 2,071 steps, representing the 110 flights of stairs climbed by New York City firefighters during the attacks on the World Trade Center.
The event is meant to honor the 2,977 victims, including 343 firefighters, eight medical technicians and 72 law enforcement officers from eight local, state and federal agencies who were killed when terrorists crashed four hijacked planes into the World Trade Center Towers in New York City; the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia; and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
“It is a tribute and a ceremony in which we honor those that lost their lives in 9/11,” said Angela Harrolle, president and CEO of the 100 Club of Arizona, the event’s co-beneficiary.
“They climb these steps, and while they’re climbing, they look at the pictures that are placed of all of the fallen throughout the Gila River Arena. It’s very impactful, and it’s an opportunity for us to take a moment and just appreciate how far we’ve come as a country.”
During the 20 years since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, the nation has lost over 7,000 members of the military and another 53,000 wounded in the war on terror.
Some first responders go above and beyond during the climb.
“You’ll have officers coming out with their canines going through the course,” Harrolle said.
“You’ll have other individuals in hazmat gear because they (consider) what if they did this on that very hard day. They were wearing all their gear. ‘I feel like I’m going to do it, too.’”
The event isn’t limited to first responders. The community is welcome to participate in the 2021 9/11 Memorial Tower Challenge. More than 3,500 people are expected at three events in Glendale, Tucson and Flagstaff.
“It’s very impactful. It’s very patriotic. And it’s also a bit somber,” Harrolle said. “We play a snippet of video, just about two minutes worth of the events of that day, and it is complete silence. People are really taken aback, because you have people who are there participating who maybe were in New York at that time, maybe had family members there, maybe in Washington, D.C.
“Everybody just becomes incredibly quiet and has their given perspective that they didn’t necessarily have previously or haven’t taken the time to really sit down and focus on.”
Among the casualties from the 9/11 attacks and ensuing war on terror are 38-year-old NYPD Officer Brian McDonnell and 20-year-old Army Specialist Chris Moon.
McDonnell was a U.S. Army veteran and served 15 years with the New York City Police Department. He also was a Tucson police officer for a year before returning to New York.
Tucson native Moon was a talented baseball player for Tucson High School. He was the Southern Arizona Baseball Player of the Year in 2006 and earned a scholarship to the University of Arizona.
Moon gave up his scholarship to serve and became a member of the 82nd Airborne. On July 6, 2010, Moon stepped on a roadside bomb and died of his injuries on July 13.
Harrolle said it’s men like McDonnell and Moon who give the Tower Challenge such a special meaning.
“I hope that it provides the community some level of comfort and brings back that unity that we all felt right after 9/11, where we began to look inward and focus on our families and appreciate our freedoms that we’ve been given,” she said.
Additionally, she said the event is for those who may not remember 9/11 or weren’t born yet.
“I mean, it’s a history lesson to some. There’s no question,” she said. “There are a lot of people there who weren’t even alive or involved on that tragic day. They’re learning about it thirdhand, but it’s also an opportunity for people to remember this time, remember how united our country was, how united our communities were and how everybody wanted to pay it forward. I think that is what is going to hopefully be experienced by the community this time as well.”
All proceeds raised at the event go toward the Tower Fund Foundation, as well as the 100 Club of Arizona and the Gary Sinise Foundation, to provide continual support to the families of police and fire personnel seriously injured or killed in the line of duty.
The event continues to look for sponsors. Sponsorship levels start at $1,000 and go up to $25,000. For more information, visit
911towerchallengefoundation.org. The first 1,500 people to register will receive a T-shirt and a challenge coin.