ROTC Stair Challenge-1

Cadets in OHIO’s Bobcat Battalion stand at attention during the opening ceremony of the Battalion’s first-ever 9/11 Stair Challenge Memorial.

Photographer: Stephanie Wolf

ROTC Stair Challenge-2

Members of the Ohio University community and area residents run and walk 2,071 steps in Peden Stadium to symbolize the 2,071 steps in one of the World Trade Center’s two towers.

Photographer: Stephanie Wolf

ROTC Stair Challenge-3

A member of OHIO’s Bobcat Battalion high-fives cadets participating in the 9/11 Stair Challenge Memorial.

Photographer: Stephanie Wolf

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OHIO, local communities join Bobcat Battalion for 9/11 Stair Challenge Memorial


Members of the Ohio University community and area residents got up extra early Friday morning to join cadets from the University’s Army ROTC Program in a unique event designed to honor the lives lost in and the heroism displayed by first responders following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

OHIO’s Army ROTC Program – the Bobcat Battalion –  hosted its first-ever Stair Challenge Memorial on the 14th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, inviting the entire area to join the battalion’s cadets in running 2,071 steps in Peden Stadium to symbolize the 2,071 steps in one of the World Trade Center’s two towers. The Athens area rose to the challenge with members of the University and the local community, including two firefighters from the Richland Area Fire Department who climbed those steps in full gear, coming out for this inaugural event.

The event kicked off at 6 a.m. with a brief memorial ceremony. The fog was still lifting from the football field and the sun hadn’t yet rose, but the atmosphere in Peden Stadium was wide awake.

“Take pride in being here this morning, and take these stairs as fast as you can,” Alexandra Hambleton, the cadet battalion commander, told those in attendance as she delivered her opening remarks and sang the national anthem. 

Following the opening ceremony, Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” played throughout the stadium, and cannon shots signaled the crowd to begin ascending the stairs.

“We felt like there weren’t many events on campus honoring 9/11, and we wanted to do something that the community could participate in,” explained Rebecca Drakulic, an ROTC cadet who organized the event. “The first part of the ceremony is more serious, but the rest is meant to bring the community together and have some fun.”

Part of that fun was the energy that the Bobcat Battalion brought to the event. Cadets passed out cups of water at stations throughout the stadium, cheered everyone on, and gave high-fives as they passed each other. 

The Bobcat Battalion plans to make the Stair Challenge Memorial an annual event, but next year will offer participants the option of donating to the Fisher House Foundation, which provides comfort homes for military and veterans’ families while a loved one is receiving treatment. Since its inception, the foundation has saved military and veterans’ families an estimated $282 million in out-of-pocket costs for lodging and transportation.

“It’s a great event, and they did a great job planning this,” said Chris Rodgers, OHIO’s director of football operations. “It’s definitely challenging, but I’ll be here again next year, and I’ll be in better shape!”