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?
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?
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.
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.