In the dark, pre-dawn inside Kenan Memorial Stadium, they climbed. Students, staff, ROTC, and local first responders all climbing these steps again and again. 110 flights in all to remember the 110 stories of the World Trade Center.
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Chapel Hill firefighter Scott Carroll climbed in full turnout gear to honor the sacrifice made 16 years ago by the firefighters who valiantly worked to save victims inside the twin towers.
"It's just important to remember those guys that made the ultimate sacrifice, Carroll said. "They could've turned away but they didn't."
In Holly Springs at Fire Station No. 1, bag pipes sounded Amazing Grace as the city unveiled its 9/11 Memorial monument. Topped with a piece of steel from one of the fallen towers in lower Manhattan, town firefighters and police rubbed the hallowed hunk of metal one by one - including officer Arthur Clarke.
"I was there during the events of 9/11," he said.
After being on the front lines of the national tragedy, Clarke retired from NYPD to take a job at Holly Springs PD. Much like the steel atop the town's memorial, Clarke served as a visual and emotional reminder that what happened was real and worthy of remembrance.
"Just nice to know that communities are still remembering and that's the main thing," he said. "First responders are just hoping that people do remember."
For years, Christina Jones tried desperately to forget her memories of 9/11.
She was a civilian worker in the Pentagon when the plane struck. She was carried to safety by a co-worker and was haunted with PTSD and anxiety for years.
"I could not talk about 9/11 until the 10-year anniversary. I had 5 friends to perish," she said.
Not long after leaving Washington for a new start in Raleigh eight years ago, Jones was finally ready to remember.
"If I can help just one person out there to realize that in the midst of all that's happened, there is hope, there is hope," she said. "And terrorism - it's real."
Triangle residents and 9/11 survivors mark the 16th anniversary