We all have our 9/11 stories, especially those of us in NYC or DC or Pennsylvania at the time, or those with loved ones who were in the towers or were rescuers. New York was a place like no other in the days that followed–more compassion and care amid the shock than I’ve ever known before or since among a society of strangers bound by an experience. There was a willingness to do, just do, for others you saw everywhere. I don’t know if our nation’s journey toward selflessness would have jumped ahead so dramatically without the tragedy (yes, we still have so far to go)–I hope to never have that tested as a theory in the future–but it did open up a conversation about how to be there and support one another that showed us all at our best. It was not, of course, limited to the United States–I traveled internationally ten days later–on practically empty flights, and everywhere we went in Norway, we were told, again and again, some version of: “We are all American in our hearts, and we are all with you.”
That spirit of service is one of the bright patches from that darkness eleven years ago–and now, September 11 is known as the National Day of Service and Remembrance. If you visit the nation’s websites at serve.gov, you can find volunteer projects near your home where you can make a commitment and make a difference in the future. Make something change because YOU were THERE (and visit the site throughout the year when it is time to do some giving work).
The website for 911day.org also provides direct place-based information for how you can remember through positive action. Sign up for a project now.
If you are a New Yorker, or live in the area, and would like to actually volunteer at the 9/11 Memorial museum/Ground Zero site, find out how to apply here. It is revered and hallowed ground for so many, and just a stop on a double-decker tourist bus and photo opp for others, but it is a part of history, and being a steward for that would be incredibly powerful (and a big emotional responsibility). You would be doing things like supporting staff, escorting large groups or visitors with special needs, helping people find specific names on the monument, and more–handing out a lot of tissue, I expect.