September 11th, 2001 remains one of the darkest days in American history. The attacks that claimed nearly 3000 lives still linger clearly in the memories of those who saw the events unfold before their very eyes. Mourning the lives lost on that day is important. It’s also important to pay tribute to their lives by focusing on positive actions.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- How Did 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance Start?
- Where Will You Find People Participating in the Day of Service?
- How Can You Participate in 9/11 National Day of Service?
This is the idea behind the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance. For several years now, this movement has inspired many throughout the nation (and in some cases, the world) to honor those who died on 9/11 by helping others.
This guide will explain how the day came to be, how many people participate in it, and how you can participate in the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance yourself.
How Did 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance Start?
The 9/11 nonprofit MyGoodDeed, which also operates under the name 9/11 Day, originally established the framework for what would become the official September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance. It developed from an initial idea into a federally-recognized National Day of Service.
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Reaction to tragedy
David Paine is one of MyGoodDeed’s co-founders. He was running a PR and marketing company when the 9/11 attacks occurred. Like virtually all Americans, the events of that terrible day shook him, particularly because his brother worked directly across the street from the World Trade Center. (Thankfully, he survived.)
By November of 2001, Paine still hadn’t fully coped with his reaction to the attacks. However, he also noticed that, despite the tragedy, it had inspired many throughout the country to come together in a truly united manner, helping each other in various ways.
Paine worried this sense of unity would naturally dissipate over time. He thought the best way to preserve it would be to make 9/11 a day when people remembered the importance of working together to help all those in need.
The beginnings of MyGoodDeed
Paine’s feelings inspired him to start MyGoodDeed in the spring of 2002. Soon after, his friend Jay Winuk joined him as a co-founder.
Paine discussed his plans with Winuk in 2001 to determine if they made sense. Winuk’s brother Glenn was a volunteer firefighter and EMT who lost his life in the 9/11 attacks. Winuk believed Paine had a good idea, but he still needed to spend more time mourning his loss before he felt he could help Paine run the organization.
Paine and Winuk began contacting the family members of 9/11 victims to ask if they also agreed it would be a good idea to make 9/11 a National Day of Service. After the pair received unanimous support from those they reached out to, they began lobbying Congress.
The start of the official 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance
Lobbying Congress required significant dedication on the parts of both Winuk and Paine. Although they started MyGoodDeed in 2002, it wasn’t until 2009 that Congress made the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance official. Along with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, it’s one of only two federally-recognized days of its kind.
The movement grew quickly. By as early as 2011, approximately 30 million people had paid respect to the dead who lost their lives on 9/11 by participating in the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance. In 2013, 47 million people participated.
Neither Paine nor Winuk considered their work done once the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance movement built up enough momentum to attract participants naturally.
Speaking with journalists, Paine admitted that many young people today weren’t old enough on 9/11 (and plenty weren’t even born yet) to have any clear memories of the day or the months that followed. Paine believed it’s important to make sure the next generations appreciate the significance of the event and continue to reflect on it through service and good deeds.
The “Born on 9/11” campaign represents one way MyGoodDeed has worked towards this goal. Realizing that the more than 13,000 children born in the US on 9/11 would be teenagers by the time he had the idea for Born on 9/11, Paine reached out to as many of them as he could track down. Several of those he contacted participated in a video promoting the message of the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance.
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Where Will You Find People Participating in the Day of Service?
As you may have guessed, the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance officially occurs on 9/11 every year. That said, because some of the ways people help others on this day require planning, and other means of service can continue as ongoing efforts, many actively participate in this day throughout the surrounding weeks and months.
Here are a few ways people pay their respects with action.
Many examples of people participating in the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance occur at the local community level. Although many participate in this day by contributing to nonprofit organizations that have a broad reach, plenty of others contribute to groups that strive to help those in their immediate areas.
This can take several forms. Donating money or planning a fundraiser is a common way many support local nonprofit organizations. Participating directly by volunteering at food banks or similar establishments is also a popular way to serve others on the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance. In some cases, organizations such as Homes for Our Troops do their part by gathering volunteers to build homes for veterans injured in America’s recent wars.
That highlights an important point. Although the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance specifically honors the victims of the 9/11 attacks, it also gives people throughout the country opportunities to help anyone in need, particularly those who may be struggling due to circumstances that developed (such as armed conflicts) as a direct result of the attacks.
The team behind MyGoodDeed and the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance believe young people must learn about 9/11 in order to understand the value of service on this day.
Thus, the organization also provides teachers with a variety of lessons and educational resources they can download from the 9/11 Day website.
How Can You Participate in the 9/11 National Day of Service?
Has this blog inspired you to participate in the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance? If so, you might do so in the following ways.
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Any gesture helps
You shouldn’t feel as though you can’t participate in the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance if you don’t have the means to do so with a grand gesture.
For instance, one of the teens that Paine contacted for the Born on 9/11 campaign once told him she started a lemonade stand to raise money for charity on 9/11. Even seemingly small gestures like this can help others, while also reminding community members about the importance of service and reflection.
Remember, as its very name indicates, the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance isn’t just a day to focus on good deeds. Although you should consider helping others on this day if you have the opportunity to do so, you might also use this day to reflect on the lives lost on 9/11.
Perhaps you could organize a community vigil and offer your neighbors a chance to light a candle for someone who died in the attacks. If you’re interested in more creative ways to honor someone who died on 9/11, you could curate an online memorial, adopt a park or section of highway in their name, or celebrate a life in any other unique way you might think of.
Social media has provided anyone who wants to participate in the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance with even more opportunities to do so.
For instance, through various social media platforms, you could raise money for a relevant charitable organization. This also gives you the chance to spread the message of the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance. If you have the necessary skills, you might even consider promoting the message to a greater degree by creating and posting an educational video, slideshow, or podcast.
There’s no wrong way to help others. If you’re doing good deeds, you’re participating in the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance.
That said, it’s understandable if you don’t know where to start. Luckily, thanks to such online resources as nationalservice.gov, you can easily find a range of ideas.
September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance: Finding Light in the Dark
Nothing can bring the victims of the 9/11 attacks back from the dead. However, as the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance proves, even in the greatest darkness, people can find hope and positivity.
If you're looking to learn more about 9/11, read our article on facts about the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City.
- “SEPTEMBER 11TH NATIONAL DAY OF SERVICE AND REMEMBRANCE.” Corporation for National & Community Service, Americorps & Seniorcorps, www.nationalservice.gov/serve/september-11th-national-day-service-and-remembrance
- Verity, Teresa. “HOW TO TAKE PART IN THE SEPTEMBER 11 NATIONAL DAY OF SERVICE AND REMEMBRANCE.” Homes for Our Troops, Homes for Our Troops, 05 September 2019, www.hfotusa.org/how-to-take-part-in-the-september-11-national-day-of-service-and-remembrance/#/
- Ziv, Stav. “Turning 9/11 Into a Day of Service and Remembrance.” Newsweek, Newsweek, 11 September 2015, www.newsweek.com/turning-911-day-service-and-remembrance-371004