To honor and remember those lost on September 11, 2001, more than 1,500 people participated in the 9/11 Tower Challenge on Wednesday morning at Gila River Arena, paying tribute to the first responders that risked -- and lost -- their lives 18 years ago.
Ascending the arena's many flights of stairs were members of Arizona law enforcement, firefighters, military personnel, family members, and supporters.
Joining them was Coyotes President and CEO Ahron Cohen, along with 13 members of the Coyotes' front office staff: Chris Bongo, Craig Campbell, Alexandra Davis, Taylor Hatleberg, Kayleigh Hill, Jon Kane, Karalyn Katchmark, Brittany Lovro, Noah Rosenfeldt, Craig Scott, Jon Shivener, Taylor White, and Craig Wolman.
"Today is about honoring, remembering, and paying tribute to those who sacrificed and lost their lives on September 11, 2001," said Cohen. "Showing support and respect to those first responders and loved ones must always be prioritized, but especially so today with the 9/11 Tower Challenge being held at Gila River Arena. I felt it was my duty, as did many of our staff members, to participate in commemoration."
A pathway was established inside the arena through its concourses, tiers of seating bowls, and six floor levels to recreate 110 flights of stairs, equaling 2,071 steps, climbed by New York City Firefighters during the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Registration proceeds benefited the 100 Club of Arizona, a close community partner of the Coyotes.
"Each of us can remember where we were on this day 18 years ago. Although we may never know what those that lost their lives on September 11th went through, this is a way for us as a Coyotes staff to give back and honor them along with those current first responders, said Taylor Hatleberg, the Coyotes' Manager of Community Impact. "Each step we took in this Tower Challenge is a way for use to show our support, respect and gratitude for all that these heroes have done for us. The 100 Club of Arizona and Fighter Country Partnership & Foundation are tremendous community partners of ours and we are thrilled to be a part of such a impactful event."
All first responders: firefighters, police officers, military members and bomb squad personnel marched alongside civilians in full gear.
Photos of those lost on September 11, 2001 lined the stairs, seats, and walls along the arena pathway to allow those participating to pause, reflect, and remember.
"As a member of the Coyotes staff, I was proud to have had the opportunity to take part in the 9/11 Tower Challenge," said Craig Scott, the team's Accounting Coordinator. "I got chills during the opening ceremony this morning, it brought back some of the feelings I had in 2001. I will always remember where I was that day."
"I feel it's important for us to remember and honor the first responders that ran towards the chaos that day. This was certainly a tough challenge, but working together as a team made it easier to push through the finish line."