Air Force Research Laboratory honors 9/11 victims in a personal way

  • Published
  • By Amy Rollins
  • Skywrighter Staff

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- For six years, the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Sensors Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has held a 9/11 commemoration event honoring those who lost their lives during the 9/11 attacks and in the global War on Terror since that day.

This year’s events, organized by Dan Koranek and Ryan Gilbert, began the morning of Sept. 11 in the circle in front of Bldg. 620, Area B, with a very personal ceremony that included a military formation roll call, posting of the colors and singing of the national anthem.  

Sensors Directorate Deputy Director Col. Tracy Hunter led the military flight while Master Sgt. Benjamin Bobic narrated the event.

“We recognize that we have uniformed members who have been affected by terrorism,” Hunter said, “but also civilians, family members and close friends who have also been impacted by the events of 9/11.”

During the roll call, Bobic called out the names of those individuals lost three times, each with increasing emphasis. Each name remembered had a personal connection with Sensors Directorate personnel.

“It was a very personalized ceremony so that we felt connected to the people who were impacted but more importantly, we remember the sacrifices they made to enable the freedom we have today,” Hunter said.

The 9/11 remembrance event is something the Sensors team values each year, she added.

“It’s really from the heart in remembering those who have been impacted,” she said, “because it was such a significant day in our nation’s history.”

Following the roll call the Sensors Directorate Quartet, comprised of Dr. Vincent Velten, Mark Minardi, Martin Justice and LeRoy Gorham, sang the national anthem. To set the tone for the event, Ryan Gilbert climbed the 13 stories and 253 steps of the tower in less than three minutes, carrying the American flag. At the top, he posted the colors there for the day.

For the first time in years, a member of the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base Fire Emergency Services Department could not climb with Gilbert due to a real-world incident occurring simultaneously.

Koranek, president of STEP UP (Sensors Tower Execution Planning and Unity Program) said money raised from the sale of T-shirts promoting the event would be donated to the Greater Dayton Disaster Response Foundation.

“The Memorial Day tornadoes created a long-lasting problem, so we are glad to direct our donations to that,” he said.

The Sensors Directorate continued to honor those lost with its annual 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb Challenge Sept. 12 and 13. The Tower Challenge involved competitors climbing to the top of Bldg. 620’s 163-foot tower, as many times as possible in three hours. The Speed Climb followed the next day, with some competitors achieving times of less than a minute.

The competitors are friendly and supportive of one another, Gilbert said.

“If 9/11 had any silver lining, it was that we saw the nation come together as one people,” he said. “In the stairwell we high-five and encourage one another. Best of all is when someone keeps training and trying and finally makes it to the top. That hits me more than the best [climbing] times.”

The winners are as follows:

Most towers climbed in 3 hours

Female: Tie – Jessica Worsham and Meagan Parker, 13 towers

Male: Nick Miller, 41 towers

Most towers climbed in 3 hours by a team:

RYM (Multispectral Sensing and Detection Division) Military, 33.5 towers

Tower Speed Climb:

Female: Lt. Col. Morgan Moser, 2 minutes 6.44 seconds

Male: Bassirou Seck, 53.35 seconds


The following is a first-person testimonial, from Rebecca Harris, Sensors Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory, on why she participates as a stair climber in the Sensor Directorate’s annual 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb Challenge:

“I knew I wasn’t in shape in September 2016, so I never considered the possibility of actually climbing, but I volunteered to sell T-shirts that year. I wanted to climb but I did not. In 2017, I decided I wanted to climb the tower and honestly, I figured I would only get one, maybe two flights completed. By the third floor the first time up, I wondered if I would even get one flight completed! I kept pressing on. I finally made it to the top for the first time and went out on the roof top to look out over Wright-Patterson. It was beautiful – I am a proud American when I look out over our base. I descended the stairs. When I got to the bottom, I thought, ‘I can do this again.’ I started climbing again. As you are climbing, you see the same people up and down and up and down. The comradery is awesome – you might have someone that is on their 20th lap up and down giving you encouragement to make it up the second time and you give it back to others. In 2017, I climbed 9 flights (slightly more than the height of one Twin Tower). In 2018, I made it 11 times up and down. I do it for one reason – to honor those that lost their lives on Sept. 11 and for those that have lost their lives or had their lives altered since then due to 9/11 involvement. There are various pictures of first responders in the tower stairwells. My heart goes out to all the first responders that put everyone’s life before their own. Even if I only made it up one floor in 2019, my heart was in it for the right reason.”