A way to pay tribute to those we lost on 9/11

The National Constitution Center commemorates the 10th anniversary of
9/11.  Join us. For more information, visit Philadelphia Unites on 9/11.

Somehow, 10 years have come and gone since my brave younger brother Glenn was murdered by terrorists on September 11, 2001. The shock goes away, I guess, and some of the pain, perhaps, but not so much, really. Especially now, as this historic milestone approaches. How should we pay tribute to those we lost and those who responded?

Glenn Winuk (Photo courtesy of Jay S. Winuk)

The White House recently issued guidelines on how to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 with instructions to honor the memory of those who died on American soil through national service and to thank those in the military, law enforcement, intelligence and homeland security for their contributions since.

Active citizenship is indeed the way I have chosen to honor my brother and all  those who were lost and those who rose in service in response to the attacks.

Glenn was a partner at the law firm Holland & Knight, at the time located just a block from what we now call Ground Zero. A 20-year volunteer firefighter and EMT in our hometown of Jericho, NY, Glenn sprung into action when the Towers were hit. He helped evacuate his colleagues, and then raced toward the South Tower, running into the towering inferno to save lives.

Glenn was an active citizen – someone who fulfilled both his rights and responsibilities. Glenn did what firefighters do, and what he had done for two decades. Just 40 years old when he died, his partial remains were recovered in March 2002, medic bag by his side. A true American hero had perished, along with a horrifying number of others.

Glenn was a remarkable person, as giving a man as I have ever known. He always went out of his way for people, and not just as an attorney and firefighter. Taking care of others, doing good deeds, just came naturally to him. It gave him great satisfaction. As brothers, we were very close. We attended the same college, shared many of the same friends and spent many happy times together. Losing Glenn, especially in this way, hurts every day.

How best to honor those lost and, for that matter, those who rose in service to get our nation back on its feet in the aftermath of the attacks? What could we do, many of us wondered then, to ensure they would not be forgotten by future generations?

What could we do to ensure they would not be forgotten by future generations?

My friend David Paine called me with an idea soon after the carnage. Let’s make 9/11 a national day of service. Let’s turn the tables, and make 9/11 about acts of kindness and charity and volunteerism in tribute to those who were killed. Sounded just right to me, and to each and every 9/11 family member we canvassed about it.

David and I co-founded the nonprofit MyGoodDeed in 2003, encouraging people to visit our web site and register a pledge to honor the victims with acts of kindness toward others, each and every 9/11 anniversary.

Teacher’s corner

According to a forthcoming study discussed in Education Week, fewer than half the states’ content standards explicitly mention the 9/11 attacks. Does your school teach about 9/11? If so, what lessons are drawn from these tragic events? Here are K-12 resources for teaching about 9/11.

By 2009, millions of people had participated, helping individuals and communities in need with acts large and small. That year, after years of lobbying on Capitol Hill by MyGoodDeed and the 9/11 community, President Obama signed into law a measure passed by Congress, formally establishing September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance.

Last year, people from all 50 states and 165 nations and territories visited our web site, their charitable actions a great and productive tribute indeed to the almost 3,000 souls from 93 nations who perished on 9/11.

This year, for the 10th anniversary, our mission is to make 9/11 the largest day of service in our nation’s history. A lofty goal, but one surely in reach. This observance answers the oft-asked question – “What should I do on 9/11?”  The answer for millions is clear and meaningful:  Help someone in need. Give back. Pay tribute with steps of kindness on this path forward out of the ashes of Ground Zero, and Shanksville and the Pentagon. Become an active citizen. Take a role in the community. Tackle a community problem. Bring about positive change.

So please join us this September 11. Be heroic. It’s as easy as can be, just a few clicks away. Find something to do right in your own neighborhood or from your desktop by visiting our web site, www.911day.org, or our pages at www.facebook.com/911day and www.twitter.com/911day. You’ll be making a difference, and the world will be better for it.

Jay S. Winuk is president of the public relations firm Winuk Communications, Inc. and the co-founder and vice president of the nonprofit MyGoodDeed. This article was adapted for Constitution Daily from one Jay originally wrote for Yahoo News.




  1. says

    To Mr. Jay S. Winuk,

    What a beautiful and touching story about your brother Glenn. He is definitely a true hero and represents all of the courageous people who lost their lives that day. Your organization, MyGoodDeed is remarkable tribute to him, and gives us prime examples of what we can do to contribute to this day of rememberance.

    My little brother was born late morning on September 11th, 2001. My family saw it as truly a gift from God so we named him Matthew. As the years have gone by and Matthew grew older, he was teased often at school by children saying he was “born on a bad day” and “bad things would always happen on his birthday”. We decided when my brother was eight, he was old enough to understand what happened on his birthday. So we took him to the Ground Zero Site as well as the St. Paul Church across the street. In St. Paul’s we were able to show him what happened 9/11/01, pictures of all of the courageous heroes that lost their lives that day, and how our country came together to become stronger than ever before. I’ll never forget when my brother grabbed my hand as we were sitting in the pews and said, “Why did Jesus want something bad to happen on my birthday?” It broke my heart to hear them say that. I explained to him, “No matter what happened that day, you were our miracle, and Jesus may have had a lot of people come up to heaven that day but we were lucky enough that he let us have an angel.”

    It’s now almost 10 years later, and I can’t believe how fast time has flown by. My brother is such a burst of energy and always has a smile on his face. He has become my best friend, and has the most incredible, postive outlook on life. Every year we volunteer for him and for the many people who have lost their lives that day. I hope your message is strong nationwide and it will encourage others to do the same.

    Thank you for your story,
    Catherine M. Logan

  2. says

    As history has proven, light can come from darkness; life will rise from the ashes. Jay, your dedication to the memory of your brother and the others who lost their lives is inspiring. Thank you for turning unimaginable hate into an all encompassing love.

  3. says

    Those who are fee of resentful thoughts surely find peace…..Buddha.
    Jay, what a wonderful tribute to Glenn (my brother loved him as did so many others). We were all so sad to hear that he was among those who perished on this horrible day but not the least bit surprised to know that this hero did what he was born to do…Help and Serve others. MyGoodDeed is the most appropriate tribute to Glenn’s memory. I am committed to join and to take action. With love, your friend Lauren.

  4. says

    Jay what a beautiful tribute. Your brother was a wonderful person and I feel honored to have known him. Thank you so much for taking the path of reminding people to do something worthwhile on 9-11. I am happy to say I do perform some sort of community service every year on this day and encourage my friends and family to do the same. Wishing you well.

  5. says

    Jay, I served with Glenn for 12 years in the Jericho Fire Department. He was a great man. This is a beautiful and touching tribute. Glenn may be missed, but He Will Never Be Forgotten.