Why Serve on 9/11?

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United We Serve
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By: 
Greg Tucker

As we look ahead to this year’s September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance, let’s step back and consider why service is such an important part of this day.

Over seven years, 9/11 families and support groups worked to establish the day as a way to honor the victims and heroes of 9/11 and rekindle the spirit of unity and compassion that followed the attacks.

The shocking acts of terrorism on the morning of 9/11 killed thousands of people and left a deep scar on our nation. But what happened in the aftermath revealed the genuine heart of the American people. Conflicting emotions of anger, confusion, and uncertainty yielded to feelings of hope, unity, and compassion. We would not forget the day and the people who were lost, but we would not let tragedy crush our spirit.

US Flag on an ambulance at Ground Zero in October, 2001. (Photo by Matt Harmon, 2011)

President George W. Bush spoke about our nation's resiliency in December 2001, saying that we would replace those emotions of anger and sadness with the "memory of bravery and self-sacrifice, and the love that lays down its life for a friend – even a friend whose name it never knew."

In 2009, President Barack Obama signed the bipartisan Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, which recognizes September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance and charges the Corporation for National and Community Service with supporting this effort across the country. CNCS encourages service efforts on 9/11 by promoting service projects through Serve.gov, giving grants to help communities and organizations with their September 11th projects, and providing tools to connect people with resources that will help them to serve.

To Honor With Service

With the support and encouragement of the 9/11 families, Americans are asked to serve as a way to commemorate that day and the lives that were lost; to recapture that feeling that we are better united than divided; and to recognize the strength that comes from placing others before ourselves.

During last year's 10th anniversary observance of the 9/11 attacks, President Obama recalled how the tragedy brought out the best in the American people and urged our citizens to reclaim that sense of unity and generosity by serving on September 11th.

"Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost," said President Obama. "A way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11."

Our ideal selves emerge when we look outward to serve our neighbors and communities while embracing the common good. We can think of no better way to demonstrate this ideal than by uniting with your fellow Americans on this day to pause, remember, and serve.

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