The most amazing thing about those few weeks after 9/11, was how much Manhattan changed. Not just because we were all living in fear, but there was something else that was happening around us. The honking stopped. The shouting quieted down and the city became, well, polite. It felt like we were all walking on eggshells, jumping at every loud noise and worrying less about getting where we needed to go.
After six months or so, the city slowly returned to its loud, hurrying, obnoxious self, but it never quite went back completely. We were all changed just a little bit.
I remember one morning, a week or so after the attacks, I watched a woman carry a box lid full of coffee cups out of a deli and to a group of NY cops who were on the corner. The police were out in full force for those first few weeks, providing a sense of security, but also making it hard to forget what had happened.
She didn’t say a word, just handed them each a cup of coffee and a smile, then put her box lid in the trash and went on her way. I don’t know why, but that moment remains in my memory as vivid as anything else that happened during those days.
I remembered that woman again the other day, when I read this story in Reader’s Digest, something I think everyone needs to be aware of.
Jay Winuk’s brother, Glenn, ran into the World Trade Center after the first plane hit. He was a volunteer firefighter and felt he could help. He died that day.
Jay wanted to memorialize his brother, but did not know how, until he received a call from his friend David. David Paine was a former colleague of Jay’s, his brother had escaped Ground Zero, and he had an idea.
They started the nonprofit, My Good Deed, a way to organize volunteer efforts all around America on 9/11. Jay and David wanted to find a way to make 9/11 about a day of service, a day to pay tribute to those who lost their lives.
That first year, over 50,000 people posted on their website (mygooddeed.org), sharing their stories of what they were planning on doing for their community, to honor those who have fallen. In 2009, President Obama signed into law, The September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance. This year, the tenth anniversary of that day, there are over 24 cities organizing events in America as well as some foreign countries.
I mentioned this to someone the other day and they said, ‘but what could we do in my small town, we don’t have any soup kitchens or homeless shelters to volunteer at?’
I am friends with a girl who takes her pickup truck to a neighborhood, and will knock on every door, until she fills the truck bed with donated food items, that she then drops off at the food bank. There’s also picking up trash on the side of the road, helping a neighbor with their yard, or maybe giving them a ride to the store. Dropping by the dog pound or the Humane Society to see if you can take a dog for a walk, giving them (and you) some exercise. Go to your local church and see if they have some families in need that could use your help, monetarily or otherwise. Visit with someone at one of our Senior Centers. Give blood. Bake cookies for our local firefighters or maybe your kids can make them Thank You cards. Fly your flag. Go to a 9/11 local memorial event. Thank a veteran for their service. Maybe just be a little nicer that day.
You can go to mygooddeed.org for ideas and to post what your tribute will be this year. The 9/11 anniversaries do not need to be days of pain, sorrow and that feeling of helplessness we all felt ten years ago. We can make it a day of good deeds, a way to pay tribute and a way to show that compassion will always be bigger than anger.
Jay Winuk, the creator if My Good Deed, says it best, “We want future generations to understand that 9/11 is not just about the attacks. It’s about how good people responded.” It’s been ten years…how will you respond this year?