“Never Forget” — it’s a phrase that has become synonymous with 9/11, but it’s more than an expression to many, including Catherine “Cat” Cleary, a senior at Severna Park High School.
Cat arrived at her school’s track at 6:00am on the 19th anniversary of 9/11 to participate in the 110-flight challenge, which simulates the distance men and women climbed in the World Trade Center during their heroic effort to save lives. Cat was joined by her mom, Marilyn Cleary.
“I wanted to support the fellow firefighters,” said Cat, who became a volunteer firefighter with the Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company this summer. “[The challenge] was tiring. I can’t imagine what it would be like with the heat. The respect I have for those firefighters is immense.”
It took Cat and Marilyn about 70 minutes to complete the challenge. To recreate the difficulty of the climb as much as possible, Cat wore turnout gear.
An avid cyclist and varsity basketball player for the Falcons, Cat is an active person, but she decided not to train for the 110-flight challenge.
“The firefighters and other responders didn’t know they were going to do it either,” she said, again trying to honor them the best way she knew how.
Cat is training for military service, most likely Air Force or Navy. Her dad is a retired intelligence officer who was deployed to Iraq. He is now a chief information security officer.
“My goal is just to give back and serve,” Cat said.
Recent opportunities are helping her prepare for that goal. She signed up for a trip to Alaska with the National Outdoor Leadership School, and she ultimately led eight people through the wilderness. Next, she is planning a trip to Mount Kilimanjaro with her mom.
Cat said the support from her parents and the Earligh Heights Volunteer Fire Company have boosted her confidence in her pursuit of those goals.
“They have given me so much confidence and shown me how to give back to the community and how to treat people with respect,” she said of the Earleigh Heights firefighters.