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Sacrifices remembered, honored at 9/11 stadium climb at West Forsyth
Howard Corrigan
First responder Howard Corrigan, followed by deputy sheriff Nathan Burks salutes as he climbs the stairs at West Forsyth High School on Sunday. - photo by Jim Dean

Just days away from the 17th anniversary of one of the worst tragedies in American history, people from Forsyth County and beyond honored fallen first responders by making a 110-story climb that many on Sept. 11 never returned from. 

On Sunday, from 11 a.m. to noon, participants of all ages completed between seven and 14 laps up and down the stadium at West Forsyth High School, working and sweating in the blazing afternoon sun to commemorate the tragedy.  

110 stories. The height of one of the World Trade Center Towers is the same as seven full laps up and down the stairs at the West Forsyth High School stadium. That’s how far these community members climbed on Sunday for a 9/11 memorial stadium climb.
“What we are doing today is really kudos to my son, who owns a small business here in Cumming, V02 Personal Training,” said Celeste Zapp, mother of VO2 Personal Training owner Troy Zapp. “He thought since 9/11 was approaching, what better way to honor our fallen heroes than by doing a stadium climb ... and West Forsyth was really gracious and let us use their stadium.”

Zapp said that participants making the climb each honored one of the 343 firefighters killed on 9/11 by wearing an individual’s name on their nametag — making the climb for them in spirit. 

“We have people here that have certain officers or firemen that they wanted to walk for and did their own tag. Others were just proud to wear and walk in honor of them,” Celeste Zapp said. “If you did 14 times around this stadium that would have been what those firemen would have accomplished if they ever made it to the top — which sadly they didn’t.” 

At the end of the day, Zapp said that more than 130 participants made the climb, raising nearly $1,133 for programs at West Forsyth and The Benefit Fund For the Families of Fallen Firefighters. 

Among the participants, Zapp said that several local first responders made the climb. One local responder, Howard Corrigan, a Forsyth County School Resource Officer, said that as a first responder in New York City during 9/11 he had a special connection to the event.  

“I think this is incredible,” Corrigan said. “I think it should be done more often.”

Zapp said that they were surprised at the range in ages that came out to the event, from children too young to remember the tragedy to older adults that remembered exactly where they were. 

Forsyth County resident Terri Hackett said that she brought her daughter and her friend out to the climb, even though they were too young to remember 9/11, because it was important to her that they knew how much that day changed American life. 

“I think it’s important because it changed the way we live forever,” Hackett said. “I explained to them at breakfast the aftermath ... and what it was like to have football games and no planes in the sky for weeks afterward and just making sure that they understood how important it was and how bad it was.”

Her daughter’s friend, Lauren McCarthy, said that after seeing all the people and making the climb she had picked up on the countless sacrifices that had been made on 9/11. 

“These people, they weren’t expecting this to happen that day, and they gave their lives,” McCarthy said. “I just think this is really important that they are honored for it.”

Hackett said that after doing the climb, she had resolved to learn more about the person on their name tags, to find out who they were and what they were like.

“I’m looking forward to going home and looking up these names and finding out what I can about these people,” Hackett said.