Memorials across Richmond honor fallen 9/11 heroes: ‘This is what it means to us to never forget’

RICHMOND, Va. -- Hundreds gathered for several ceremonies across Richmond on Sunday to mark the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks later this week.

The first, held Sunday morning, was the 8th anniversary of the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb.

People gathered in downtown Richmond to honor the first responders killed in 9/11.

First responders and others from all over climbed 110 floors to represent the floors climbed by first responders in the World Trade Center on that day. Each person was given the badge of a first responder who died on September 11, 2001.

"I'm carrying the badge of firefighter Patrick Burn who perished on 9/11," Virginia's Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran said.

After climbing those stairs, participants then rang a bell three times, and said the first responder's name who had passed.

"For those of us on the job, this is what it means to us to never forget. It's not enough to say it," Lt. Michael Oprandi with the Richmond Fire Department said.

He said 17 years later, Richmond first responders remember the 343 firefighters killed that day, and the (more than) 182 members who have died from complications related to 9/11 since.

"I mean running into the building -- that's what these firefighters and first responders do. They run into the building. Whereas everyone else is fleeing," Moran said.

Now 17 years later these men and women remember.

"For those of us on the job... this is what it means to us to never forget. ... it's not enough to say it."

Hours later in a separate event called the 9/11 Heroes Run organized by the Travis Manion Foundation, hundreds more honored those who lost their lives following the deadly attacks.

More than 600 people came to Richmond to participate in a 5k run. Disabled army veteran Gene Laureno was one of them.

Laureno said he was injured in 2001 -- the same year as the attacks -- in an accident outside of combat. He traveled all the way from New York to  be at the 9/11 Heroes run.

"Nothing was going to stop me from being here," Laureno said.

Laureno said he traveled all the from New York to participate in the 9/11 Heroes 5K on Sunday.

"It's a reminder this day -- what started everything," Laureno said. "Everyone who lost their lives on 9/11, to watch the country come together because of this -- that's why I'm here."

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