Kettle Run Hosts Memorial Stair Climb


Juliana Best and Mandy Holmes

“It was one of those things that it wasn’t just one day, it kind of extended for several years.” Jessica Murphy was only 22 years old when she worked the scene at the Pentagon following the 9/11 attacks. Still in the police academy, she responded to one of the most tragic days in American history. She recalled, “People came up crying and hugging me and thanking me. It was just very surreal.” This event had a major lasting impact and led to many changes in American society. 

To bring awareness and give respect to those lost, Kettle Run held a stair climb memorial. This was led by Jessica Murphy, a social sciences teacher. Before she was a teacher, Murphy was an Arlington County Police Officer, and responded to the attack on the Pentagon. After watching the 20th anniversary of 9/11 pass by essentially unnoticed at Kettle Run, she was inspired to do something to commemorate this significant event. Murphy got the idea for the stair climb memorial while discussing 9/11 with her students and felt it was a meaningful memorial she wanted to make happen

In an interview prior to the event, Murphy expressed her goals for the students, saying, “My hope is to give [students] a chance to hear from people who lived through it; something that’s really impactful and eventful that happened in our culture and in our country.” She also added, “It’s important to kind of share that. Our world’s changed dramatically since 9/11 and [today’s students] wouldn’t know that since [they’ve] only lived in this world. It’s a chance to have living history and share it with [the students] and give [them] an experience to take away from it.”

The memorial stair climb was held on Friday, September 9 at the Cougar Stadium, and the large turnout only served to show how much this event meant to so many. The event began with a moment of silence at 8:14, the time that American Airlines Flight 11 was hijacked. The next announcement was an introduction and the playing of the National Anthem and Amazing Grace at 8:30 am. At 8:46 am, which was when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, all participants started climbing stairs or walking the track. This continued until 10:28 am, when the North Tower collapsed. During the climb, many announcements and moments of silence were held at the times corresponding with the attacks and events of the actual 9/11 attack. The announcements contained detailed records of specific events that occurred the morning of the attacks.

Kettle Run’s Principal, Meaghan Brill, thought it was amazing to see all kinds of members of the community coming together to remember 9/11 and share moments of silence together. She said, “I think it’s important to highlight those moments and just provide some recognition for people who were responding, who lost their lives. It’s a neat way to bring everyone together.” Hundreds of people came together during this event, including people who normally wouldn’t interact with each other. Students, parents, volunteer firefighters, police officers, military members, veterans, and more showed up to pay respect to the significance of 9/11. Warrenton Chief of Police Michael Kochis expressed his appreciation, saying, “To see students here that weren’t even alive then, and to know how important it is to come out here and support us; that’s huge you know.” With the amount of support shown by members of the community, this memorial was definitely well received. Knowing that events like these will only increase in size and awareness, Mrs. Murphy and Principal Brill hope to make the stair climb a tradition for years to come.

During the event, several participants were asked the same interview question: How does this event make you feel and what does it mean to you? This is a collection of their answers:

  • “I think what’s really interesting about it and I don’t know what everybody else has told you, but most of these young people probably weren’t even alive when 9/11 happened. And so just that they’re out here and that they’re, you know, engaging with their community and showing support for the idea of what first responders stand for. And from a military personnel standpoint, I think it is great sometimes. I think young people get a little bit of a bad rap, not really, caring much about their country or having this maybe less intense sense of patriotism, but it’s good to come out here and see ’em working and getting after it. – Christopher Sharon 
  • “I think it’s fantastic. When 9/11 happened, I was in 11th grade. I watched it happen on TV in school and it was at that point in time that I knew I wanted to join the military. It’s kind of great seeing that a school, you know, is now getting everyone to come together to do this. So it’s great to see. – Jordan White
  • “It shows the community coming out together and supporting everything that’s, you know, happened from 9/11 until today. Like I said, as you can see by,  attendance here today, it’s well supported and I think it’s viewed as a solemn thing. I think anytime that you can bring your first responders, students, civilians, everyone together. I mean, can’t help, but strengthen those bonds.” – David Lee
  • “This event here means a lot to me due to the fact that I was a senior in high school, when this happened and for retired military personnel, volunteer firefighters, the Sheriff’s Office to come out with the participation that we have to show our support.” – Sergeant Kemper
  • “It’s definitely a good experience. It was kind of an honor because they experienced it all. So it kind of feels like we are helping them get through it, whatever they are, their emotions and stuff like passing through them because they need that support.” – A Kettle Run Band Member
  • “I feel like this event is good, like awareness and showing how it felt. It’s also sad and I appreciate like the, the moments of silence and the facts they’re giving us and stuff about it.” – Tessa Falsone