TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - 17 years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that left thousands dead, Tucson continues to honor those fallen. One of the ways local first responders and military members do this is through the Never Forgotten Tower Challenge at the University of Arizona.
More than 1,000 people are expected to climb 2,071 stairs in Arizona Stadium on Tuesday, Sept. 11, as a way to honor those who lost their lives in the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania and as a way to recognize the sacrifices of the military families engaged in the war on terror.
For Marana police Officer Dan Rowan, a man who has committed 35 years as a public servant both as a firefighter and a police officer, 9/11 is a difficult day. It's the day he lost almost 400 people he loved and considered his family.
"9/11 was the worst day of my life," Rowan said.
Life since then hasn't always been easy for Rowan. He says hes seen therapists and that he relives the tragic day that stole the lives of so many of his brethren, every day.
"My alarm goes off at 2:45 a.m. 2:46 I'm putting my clothing on," Rowan said of his daily routine. "I have my team over my heart, I have my team in my pocket, I have my team in my car, I have my team in my jacket so they never miss a call. I lost 10 of my men, out of 15, going in. But not only that, I lost 343 brothers."
The 9/11 Tower Challenge Foundation has the annual stair climb at Arizona Stadium to remember those fallen, like Dan Rowan's brothers in service to the city of New York.
Each year the entirely volunteer-run foundation raises about $50,000 for various local causes. This year the money raised is going to The 100 Club of Arizona to provide financial assistance to families of first responders that are seriously injured or killed in the line of duty, the YMCA of Southern Arizona to help support programs for military families, and the Tucson Community Cares Foundation to give support to families of deployed airmen at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
The climb starts at 7:25 a.m. and is not open to the public. Those attending can begin checking in at 6 a.m.