The 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb kicked off at 9:11 a.m. It was organized to honor the first-responder victims of the terrorist attacks and to raise funds for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, which helps the families of those who have died in the line of duty. The money comes from registration costs, as well as individual pledges.
Most of those registered for Saturday's event are firefighters, paramedics and other emergency responders. They climbed all 80 stories of the Aon building as a tribute to those who ascended the stairs of the Twin Towers.
"It's about them and who they left behind. And that's the most important thing, that we never forget what they did, the sacrifices they made," said Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Robert Hoff.
On participants' bibs were the names and faces of the more than 340 firefighters who died.
"Not only I can keep them in mind, but I can keep it closer to my heart. Even so I directly don't know this person, but we are brotherhood," said Chicago firefighter Hector Garcia. "It is not just because it is the anniversary, but it is something we should keep in our mind for the rest of our lives that changed history."
"It puts a chill up my spine to know that there are this many people that still care. It's not just about the 343. Obviously this run is, [but] it is about all 3,000-plus that were killed that day. But the 343 firefighters, and a lot of us knew some of them, it's about them and who they left behind. That's the most important thing, that we never forget what they did, the sacrifices they made," Hoff said.
On Saturday night, political and religious leaders remembered the victims of Sept. 11 at an interfaith gathering at Daley Plaza.
"Those very evil attacks has also unveiled an unprecedented outpouring of selflessness, of caring, of togetherness," said Imam Kareem Irfan, Council of Religious Leaders.
First-responders were also remembered in far north suburban Wadsworth. There was a wreath dedication, and a special ceremony for the fallen, which organizers called the Missing Firefighter Formation.
"Heartbreaking. Just brought back all the feelings that I had the day that it happened," said former Beach Park firefighter Shawna Hines.
"Regular people like us can't take things for granted. And it's very emotional, people's lives being lost," said Round Lake Beach resident Teeravat Voratut.
On Sunday, American Airlines flight attendant Pamela Hogue will honor fellow crew members who were aboard the doomed flights. She's running in the Chicago Half Marathon, and will dedicate a mile for each of her fallen friends.
"They got across that line, and they did so much for our country and for us. And I just want to recognize that and remember that and think about that," Hogue said.
Several events are scheduled for Sunday, including a special 9/11 tribute at the Bears game at Soldier Field. The event includes a field-length unveiling of the American flag and a moment of silence for the victims of the attacks. Officials say security will be no different than any other game, but fans are urged to leave plenty of time to get in.
Chicagoans give donations, day of service for 9/11 victims
The Sept. 11 attacks put an incredible new burden on the American military.
On Saturday, Gov. Pat Quinn praised the state's Military Family Relief Fund, which helps ease financial burdens on Illinois National Guard families.
Surrounded by Guard members, Quinn urged donations through the website OperationHomefront.org. He said more than 24,000 families have shared $13 million from the fund.
Many Chicagoans commemorated the terror attacks by participating in a day of service. Volunteers from Chicago Cares and the White Sox Volunteer Corps gathered Saturday to help transform McClellan Elementary School in Bridgeport. Volunteers painted hallways and classrooms, as well as decorative murals. They also helped with landscaping needs at the school.