Roanoke 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb held in Salem amid pandemic

Local News

SALEM, Va (WFXR) — The annual Roanoke 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb looked a lot different this year because of COVID-19.

On Friday, Sept. 11, the annual event was held at the Salem Memorial Ball Park instead of the Wells Fargo Tower.

“We have not been able to rely on 2020, but what I’ve learned, I am deeply humbled by the number of people that are here tonight. I have goosebumps. And I’ve learned that I can rely on you,” said coordinator Peter Matthiessen.

The Roanoke 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb was relocated so it could be outside and CDC compliant. Matthiessen, with the Roanoke City Fire Department, says he’s grateful for the turnout.

“I’m just super, super excited that we could get together and celebrate together that there are still people willing to sacrifice their lives for others.”

Crews from all over came to take part in the climb. They went up and down these stands a total of 11 times.

“People are here from Roanoke Valley fire departments and beyond. We’ve got people from Tazewell and outer local areas. People in public safety. We’ve got firefighters, police officers, civilians,” said Matthiessen.

First Lt. James Vanhoozer came all the way from Tazewell County to take part in Friday’s event.

“I did it last year and whenever I did it, going through what I did was unimaginable. Those firefighters… what they’d done under all the stress,” said Vanhoozer.

He says the heroes from 9/11 are what inspired him to become a firefighter.

“I started this because of 9/11. It was one of the reasons I joined the fire department. I was a little kid and I just look up to those guys,” said Vanhoozer.

Participants wore badges that represented first responders who lost their lives on 9/11, and once they finished, they rang a bell and read the name on their badges.

One of the first to finish was Liz Fritsch, who is the mother of a Roanoke firefighter.

“I think it’s just important to not forget 9/11. I think it’s important to remember what those firefighters and police men and women went through,” said Fritsch.

Those who couldn’t be there in person were asked to do a similar exercise and post it on social media.

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