MARYVILLE, Mo. — The spirit of those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, while saving others was alive and well in Bearcat Stadium on Thursday night during a remembrance, tribute and memorial to those first responders.

Northwest Missouri State University and local firefighters and EMS hosted the event in lieu of the usual 9/11 ceremonies, which were canceled due to COVID-19. Instead, the university put together an outdoor event that featured remarks from President John Jasinski and Maryville Public Safety Fire Division Captain Phil Rickabaugh, a replay of news reports from Sept. 11, 2001, and a stair-climb challenge.

One of the more stirring tributes was a moment of silence punctuated by a series of five bells.

“The fire service is instilled with a lot of tradition, and a lot of those go back — way, way back — to when fire engines were pulled by horses,” Rickabaugh said in his remarks. “And one of those is what we call ‘striking the four fives.’

“Long ago before the advent of radios and pagers, fire alarms and daily announcements were dispatched to the fire departments by a series of bell commands and telegraph. Each different alarm or announcement would have its own number and a series of bell strikes. When a firefighter died in the line of duty … headquarters would transmit five bell strikes repeated in four series.”

The stair-climb asked participants to go up and down 2,071 steps in the stadium to simulate the 110 stories of the World Trade Center towers climbed by fallen firefighters that day 19 years ago. Each participant wore a photo of a first responder who died during the rescue.

The event was attended mostly by college students, many of whom were not yet born or no more than a couple of years old on the day when 2,996 people died — including 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority police officers who were attempting to evacuate the buildings and save others who had been injured.

“Those lives lost at the hands of terrorists were not just numbers or stats; they’re folks, just like you and me and the first responders over here,” Rickabaugh said. “So I just ask one thing of all of you today … we never forget.”

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