Phoenix residents do 9/11 Tower Challenge at Glendale Gila River Arena – The Arizona Republic

Marla Hattabaugh completed the 2,071 steps that made up Saturday morning’s 9/11 Tower Challenge at Gila River Arena in Glendale. 
For the 80-year-old Scottsdale resident, it was a way to honor those lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, as well as a late friend who participated annually in the challenge.
“I’m very enthused,” Hattabaugh said about her first time doing the challenge, adding it was “inspiring to see” a thousand or so participants commemorating the terrorist attack 21 years later.  
The World Trade Center’s Twin Towers each consisted of 110 floors and 2,071 steps. Each year, The 100 Club of Arizona, a nonprofit, organizes events in the state for thousands of people to walk, climb and run the stairs to honor the anniversary. Firefighters in full gear, police, military and bomb squad personnel march steadily alongside civilians of varying ages, abilities and backgrounds.
Hattabaugh says her love and devotion to country and to a late friend brought her out to the arena to walk its concourse in five laps.
Trina Nuttall was a fellow member of Club SAR (Scottsdale Area Recreation) Hiking Group and partook in the challenge yearly. Her death in July from glioblastoma motivated Hattabaugh and another 12 members of her group to carry on the woman’s tradition.
“She’s a total American — loved the country and everything that freedom stands for,” Hattabaugh said tearfully. “We all feel the same way. We’re not politically on the same page, but we all have that love of country and love of people.”
Avondale police Officer Ronald Bergeron, 29, dripped from perspiration as he climbed the stairs of the arena seats alongside firefighters, military service members, other officers and civilians, about 1,000 people in all. This was Bergeron’s third year doing the challenge.
“If I can put myself through the smallest bit of pain and overcome it, it’s just another reminder that my day’s not that bad,” Bergeron said.
Bergeron remembers his mother calling him and his siblings into the living room as they prepared for school when the towers fell and explaining to them what was happening. Now, he has two children, 7 and 5, whom he has shared with the history and meaning of the day.
100 Club Arizona CEO Angela Harrolle said there continues to be a need to commemorate 9/11, describing it as “the greatest tragedy of her generation,” with nearly 3,000 lives that were taken that day, including hundreds of first responders, and the loss of lives in ensuing military conflicts.
The group has organized the 9/11 Tower Challenge for several years, previously holding it in Tucson.
“They’re people who appreciate their freedoms,” she said of the participants as she took a break to talk about the event in between her own laps up and down the arena seat steps, adding, “You’re pretty winded just with the first set and these folks are going all the way around the building.”
Harrolle was in Washington, D.C., working for the U.S. Department of State when she noticed a commercial plane flying low from her window.
Then they heard news of the attack in Manhattan. Soon the plane they had seen, American Airlines Flight 77, crashed into the Pentagon.
With the nation’s roads gridlocked and no cellphone reception, Harrolle struggled to locate a landline to let her mother in Minnesota know she was safe.
She reached her mother, who did not recognize Harolle’s voice.
“She thought she was getting the call that something had happened to me, and I said, ‘No, Mom. Mom, it’s OK. It’s me. It’s me.’ She said, “OK. OK. Just go. Just go. I’m just glad you’re OK,’” Harrolle said as her eyes welled up.
The bond between mother and child was on Hattabaugh’s mind at the event as well.
Many of the climbers wore a badge with the face of a first responder who died on 9/11. A photo of Port Authority of New York Officer Antonio Rodrigues could be seen hanging on a lanyard off Hattabaugh’s neck.
“When I read he was 37, of course, it brought tears to my eyes because he’s younger than my children,” Hattabaugh said.
Reach breaking news reporter Jose R. Gonzalez at or on Twitter @jrgzztx.
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