As we are nearing the fifth anniversary of September 11th, I cannot help but reflect on my experiences on and since that day. That day, I was still a college student at NYU leaving my dorm in the financial district for a 9am class. I am sure you can piece together the timeline. However, it is not the events of the day I wish to share, but the events that transpired that night.
NYU mobilized faculty, staff and students in record time to offer food, shelter, counseling and any other assistance to the students and surrounding community affected by the day. That evening was surreal. It was before the ugly emotions of anger and fear took hold of so many people in this city and country. Instead, as I volunteered at the hub of NYU’s relief services – the gym – I witnessed people work through the night to offer assistance. People came to offer spare beds/rooms in their apartments for displaced students. Local stores donated food and supplies. There was more cots setup on the gym floor than there were people to fill them. Volunteers were on hand just to offer students new to the city directions to get “home”. There was an outpouring of support and services to ANYONE that needed them.
The days following 9/11, most of the volunteer work in New York centered on helping relief workers and victims’ families. New York City residents came out in droves to make sandwiches, donate money and goods or do whatever they could. However, by then there was a different feeling in the air. Fear and anger were infiltrating the city and slowly but surely many people let those feelings overwhelm them rather than the feelings of support and community that had at least changed my life on that first night.
As this year’s anniversary approaches, I urge myself and others to reclaim that sense of community. Organize or take part in a service-learning project this September to remember not the travesty that our country suffered, but the reawakening of public service, democratic debate and value of diverse, inclusive communities that surfaced in many of us that year. I further urge us to realize these values 9/11 may have reawakened are not the kind to take out only on anniversaries. Think about how this anniversary can be the impetus for long term service-learning work that focuses on our civic responsibility to be good and just citizens.
There are numerous efforts around the country to help you get involved or plan a service-learning project to remember 9/11. For more information read this message from the Corporation for National and Community Service:
From now through September 11th, we will be promoting a series of activities under the theme, "Serve to Remember. Remember to Serve." We encourage you to join in this national call to service by finding ways to tie planned activities and events to this theme. Download the "Serve to Remember" toolkit, which contains a variety of tips, ideas, and templates to help you generate awareness and media interest at the state and local level.
Below is a list of the activities taking place at the national level:
* Gulf Coast Tour, August 28-30: Members of the Corporation's Board of Directors, along with members of the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation, will tour a series of national service projects in Louisiana and Mississippi to gain a better understanding of our programs' unique role and impact, and the continued need for volunteers in the region.
* National Service Anniversary Report: On Monday, August 28, the Corporation will release its one-year report on the contributions of national service programs to relief and recovery efforts. To date, more than 36,000 national service participants have contributed more than 1.6 million hours of service to relief and recovery efforts, and leveraged an additional 92,000 community volunteers.
* Media Outreach: The Office of Public Affairs is reaching out to national print and broadcast media to help ensure that the "volunteer story" is told within the media coverage of these two anniversaries. To help garner coverage, we are promoting the following:
* Service Projects - Through our earlier request for information, we have identified nearly 100 service projects or commemorative events that you have planned around the Katrina or 9/11 anniversary. We have been promoting these events through media advisories as part of a nationwide serve-a-thon that pays tribute to the compassionate response that took place in the wake of both Katrina and 9/11. You can promote your local service project as part of this
* Research - Several pieces of research examine the effects disasters have on Americans' civic behaviors. A compendium of related research is included in the toolkit mentioned above.
* Compelling Stories of Service - Through your earlier submissions, we have been identifying unique perspectives and spokespeople to help demonstrate national services' role in disaster response and community rebuilding. While we have identified several volunteer stories related to Katrina, we are still looking for stories related to 9/11. If you know of an individual who decided to volunteer or join a national service program as a result or 9/11, please send their name, contact information, and a brief description of their compelling story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have specific questions related to these "Serve to Remember" ideas, please feel free to contact one of the following Corporation staff:
* Siobhan Dugan at email@example.com
* Sandy Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Shannon Maynard at email@example.com
~Jessica Bynoe, National Coordinator, Youth Innovation Fund