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Duncan Hall hosts tower climb in honor of 9/11 first responders

| Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Having lived in New York during their childhoods, sophomores Conor Milligan and Patrick Creaven were both directly impacted by the events of 9/11.

Creaven’s dad, who lived in New York at the time, watched the plane fly into the south tower and had friends who were killed in the tragedy. Milligan’s family knew a police officer — Ramon Suarez who died while rescuing people.

So the two Duncan Hall residents came together last spring and started planning a new dorm signature event to honor first responders — particularly those who sacrificed their lives in the aftermath of the terrorist attack. On 9/11, this Wednesday, Duncan Hall will host ND 110, a “9/11 Tower Climb,” to raise money for Heart 9/11, a charity founded by New York first responders.


“There’s a lot of talk going on now about how the police are terrible and disrespecting them, but they put their lives on the line every time they go on the clock [and] even if they’re off the clock, because [they] keep our communities safe,” Milligan said.

Participants will climb 110 flights of stairs, the number that firefighters had to climb in the Twin Towers. The event will be held in Jordan Hall, and organizers estimate it will take about 45 minutes to complete the 24 laps of the front, south-side staircase which equals 110 flights of stairs.

“It’s not a race — it’s in honor of the firefighters,” Milligan said. “Not everyone starts at 5 o’clock. People come in and it takes about 45 minutes, but you come and do it at your own pace.”

The event will run from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. with participants staggered in waves of up to 100 at a time. The event took inspiration from Storm the Stadium, an annual University event sponsored by the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs. Milligan and Creaven met with firefighters who said they felt the event was more focused on honoring members of the military and wanted to create an event specifically geared towards recognized first responders.

“I know a decent amount of them went to Storm the Stadium but … it’s not for them specifically,” Creaven said. “So for them to have something for them [specifically], they appreciate it a lot.”

Milligan said he and Creaven discussed the event with firefighters from the South Bend Fire Department in April and began looking at ways to recognize first responders in particular on campus.

”We met with them and sort of asked them, ‘Do you guys feel like an event like Storm the Stadium really accommodates first responders?’” Milligan said. “And they mentioned that, especially in a community like South Bend, there’s sort of a disconnect between the community and first responders, and then also that divide between campus and South Bend. So they were like, ‘Yeah, Storm the Stadium is great, but it’s for military and veterans.’

“So a first responder event was something that they really wanted. … We thought this would be a good way to bridge the campus-community divide and sort of unite us with first responders.”

About a dozen first responders have already signed up for the event, amongst 55 pre-registered participants. Creaven and Milligan said they hope to have at least 200 participants in order to raise around $2,000 for Heart 9/11.

Milligan said the tower climb is the only event of its kind within a two-hour radius of campus. As such, he said he hopes the event will have even more of an appeal in the local area.

“The closest one might be in Chicago,” he said. “So, it’d be a good draw to get an event in the Michiana area. And Notre Dame is really good at hosting large events, with football and everything so [it] can very easily tack on something like this.”

Creaven and Milligan spent months planning the event, submitting their SAO request during the summer. This is the first year Duncan Hall will host the tower climb. In past years, the dorm considered the Bald and the Beautiful to be its signature event, though the popular event is now run through a club.

Milligan said he looks forward to honoring firefighters and first responders at Wednesday’s event, as the community comes together to remember 9/11.

“It’s a defining moment for our country,” Milligan said. “A lot of us on campus now were very, very young when it happened, but it shaped our daily lives, so we never forget that it happened.” 

Participation in the event is free for first responders and costs $15 for other members of the community. Event t-shirts can also be purchased for $15. Registration is available online and at the time of the event.

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About Natalie Weber

Natalie Weber graduated in 2020 from the University of Notre Dame, with a Bachelor of Arts in English and minors in journalism and computing. A native of Grand Junction, Colorado she most recently served as Managing Editor at The Observer. // Email: [email protected] // Twitter: @wordsbyweber

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