By DREW GANNON
Fort Hays State University
On Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, individuals from Hays and surrounding communities gathered at Lewis Field for a 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb and Walk in memory of the events that occurred 20 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001. Over the last several days I have tried to put into words what I experienced at the event.
As we began to plan for the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb and Walk, my hope was that we would remember the events that happened on 9/11, to honor the sacrifices made by so many, and that participants would come together in unity just as this country did in 2001.
As I stood in front of the crowd last Saturday, I fought back emotions as I witnessed the love of a community, gathered for a purpose and uniting behind a cause. The emotions continued as we begin to climb stairs and I followed behind a group of firefighters in full gear, climbing 110 flights of stairs in remembrance of the first responders who answered the call and ran into the Twin Towers to save others.
This year, and each of the past 20, my heart aches for those who lost so much on 9/11 — for those who endured pain, for those who lost loved ones, for those who live every day struggling with the emptiness that day left, and for those that have had to deal with the implications and aftermath of 9/11. My heart hurts also for our divided nation struggling to mend its differences that seemed to not matter right after 9/11 as we stood together as Americans.
Perhaps in the heartache of recalling that fateful day lies our answer to take a step forward. As I looked around Saturday morning, I was filled with hope and a remembrance of my own.
I was reminded that we can stand united despite having different beliefs. At the heart of the matter lies a common need to be loved, understood, and recognized.
I was reminded that conversations are a two-way street, and that listening is more important that talking. It’s in the listening we find commonalities.
I was reminded that this country has by no means ever been perfect, rather that we’re more alike than we are different. It’s acts of love that bring us together.
I was reminded of Sept. 12, 2001, when the sun rose and America’s future shined bright. It’s in the moments after tragedy where we find our resolve.
As I looked around at Lewis Field, I said a prayer for those that have endured so much since 9/11, for this community, for our state, and for the United States of America…
May we begin to listen a little more to one another, even if we have different beliefs. May we seek out hope and chase after the hearts of one another, acting in love and making the extra effort to serve others. May we take time to climb more stairs together, or go for walks, to laugh, cry, and remember. May we find the light in dark moments and stand together as neighbors.
I am exponentially grateful to the many individuals that helped make the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb and Walk possible. Thank you to our friends at Fort Hays State University, the local fire and police departments, our EMS volunteers, and the different groups, organizations and businesses that advertised the event or helped us out. Thank you to those who came together in unity to remember, honor, and fill us with hope.
Drew Gannon is Fort Hays State University's director of the Tiger Fitness Center and a health and human performance instructor.