VMI Cadets Honor 9/11 First Responders

LEXINGTON, Va. Sept. 12, 2023 — The Virginia Military Institute Corps of Cadets honored those who perished in the 9/11 terrorist attacks by climbing 110 stories in barracks, replicating the number of stairs first responders at the World Trade Center climbed during the rescue attempt, and in memory of those who lost their lives that day.Cadets perform a 110 story stair climb in honor of Sept. 11 at VMI.

Each cadet taped the name of a 9/11 victim on the back of their rucks, including two VMI alumni who perished, Lt. Cmdr. David Williams ’91, and Charles Mathers ’62.

Before the climb began, Institute chaplain, Col. John P. Casper ’04 shared with the Corps, his experience being a 20-year-old 3rd Class cadet on Sept. 11, 2001.

“I was in a classroom in Scott Shipp Hall when we heard the news. We turned on the television to see the planes flying into the World Trade Center. As they hit the buildings, there was a sense of chaos in barracks. We didn’t quite know what was happening. But we began to see the gravity of the situation, that life would never be the same. In the following weeks and months, some cadets left. They enlisted immediately, and came back to graduate at a later time. But there is a spirit in barracks, a spirit of resiliency, a spirit of VMI that only cadets and graduates can really understand and know. And it is that spirit of VMI that brings us together in moments like this. It transcends the corps, and goes to the very heart of who we are as human beings, and we know within our souls, not only for us, but for the loved ones that we lost, many of whom are your family members and relatives. To know that we will always defend those who cannot defend themselves. So, as you're going up the stairs, I hope that these meaningful words are in the back of your mind, because we will never forget,” he said, then led the corps in prayer.Cadets perform a 110 story stair climb in honor of Sept. 11 at VMI.

Some cadets took turns carrying a piece of glass recovered from the rubble of the Twin Towers, as well as an American flag recovered from ground zero. Noah Chapman ’25, president of his class, is in charge of the care of the flag.

It's an honor and extremely humbling to be able to carry this flag during the stair climb, because it's like I'm carrying the weight of my class, my dyke’s class, and everyone who came before them,” he said. 

Paul Murray ’24, regimental executive officer who was in charge of the climb said, “It's an honor to be in charge of this activity. Because I know personally that it's such an incredible thing to do as a rat. You arrive at VMI knowing no one, then all of a sudden, 1,700 people are bonding over this terrible event that happened in 2001. Yet it brings everybody together in such an amazing way.” 

At the completion of the climb, the Rat Mass received their shoulder boards.

Marianne Hause
Photos H. Lockwood McLaughlin
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