(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)— Angie Jones was a Maryville, Mo. firefighter on September 11, 2001.
"It was just pretty surreal to just sit there and watch it and know there was nothing you could do for anybody," Jones said. You want to help, but you can't."
She's now the Fire Science Instructor at Hillyard Technical Center in St. Joseph. Every year on the anniversary, she has her students honor the 343 firefighters who lost their lives on that fateful day by climbing up stairs as many times as they can.
"I think it's very important for them to understand what these firefighters went through that day just getting to the tower and looking up and seeing that and the factor of what are we going to do, how are we going to get up there," Jones said. "We know there are risks to this job. We accept that risk."
For her first-year students, it is quite the challenge.
"It taught me discipline because there's no way in the world that..55 feels terrible. 110. It's like a change. This is who we do it for," Student Cayden Carter said.
Some of students weren't even born yet when 9/11 happened, but still had a special reason to do this.
"I just want to be like my father," Student Khiler Bless said. "Every time I see my dad go to calls, I feel like it's the most awesome way to be a firefighter, save people's lives and protect property."
The students weren't alone climbing steps Tuesday— they had each other.
"These firefighters are like my family," Bless said. "They are being brave and never giving up. We're doing it as a team. We got to keep on going. We're not going to stop."
They may be a group of teenagers now, but one day these young men are going to be future heroes with a new found respect for their occupation.
"It's more about respect for all those firemen that didn't make it through that day," Student Cole McMillian said. "Just to remember those men and what they went through— we'll never know that pain they went through."
"It's pretty amazing because as much as the point they almost seem like they don't like me, they come back later and say how much that meant to them," Jones added.
In the 10 years she's taught at Hillyard, many of Jones' students have continued the 9/11 stair climbing tradition by participating at other remembrance first responder ceremonies.