It’s almost impossible to believe, but Tuesday will mark the 17th year we will be remembering 9/11 — the deadliest single attack on American soil in the history of this country. On that day, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in a series of coordinated terrorist actions involving hijacked commercial airliners.
Life in this country has changed immeasurably in those 17 years. We’re now more conscious of what it takes to keep our country secure from similar incidents. We’ve seen amazing patriotism blossom from unbelievable tragedy. And every year, we find new ways of remembering 9/11 — both the incredible destruction caused and those who were left behind.
If you’re looking to remember one of the most tragic days in American history this year, here are several ways we found across this fruited plain in which you can do it — both large and small.
#1 Way of Remembering 9/11: Visit the National 9/11 Memorial in New York City
While you won’t be able to visit the 9/11 Memorial on 9/11 itself — it will be closed for ceremonies, and getting close will be difficult — visiting before and after would be one of the major ways to pay your respects to the location where the majority of the victims were killed by al-Qaida terrorists.
The memorial, which opened in 2011, sits on the site of the former World Trade Center towers and is dedicated to the victims of both attacks on the site — the 2001 one that felled the towers and the 1993 bombing.
“The Memorial’s twin reflecting pools are each nearly an acre in size and feature the largest manmade waterfalls in North America,” the memorial’s website reads. “The pools sit within the footprints where the Twin Towers once stood. Architect Michael Arad and landscape architect Peter Walker created the Memorial design selected from a global design competition that included more than 5,200 entries from 63 nations.
“The names of every person who died in the 2001 and 1993 attacks are inscribed into bronze panels edging the Memorial pools, a powerful reminder of the largest loss of life resulting from a foreign attack on American soil and the greatest single loss of rescue personnel in American history.”
The 9/11 Memorial is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. The museum, for which tickets can be purchased at the memorial’s website, is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
#2 Way of Remembering 9/11: Volunteer
While paying respects to those who died and those who risked their lives and health on that dread day over a decade and a half ago is important, so is taking action. That’s why the September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance is recognized at the federal level — it’s a day to turn one of humanity’s greatest tragedies into a moment of triumph.
The official organization behind the volunteer effort is MyGoodDeed, and it has a website called 9/11 Tomorrow Together where it gathers some of the inspiring stories of those who used one of the lowest moments in our national life to make a positive change.
The organization was started in large part by David Paine and Jay Winuk. The latter lost his brother Glenn, a lawyer who served as a volunteer EMT and firefighter, in the attacks.
“Glenn did what he was trained to do,” Winuk said, according to the group’s website. “He had the skills and courage to run into the burning World Trade Center, toward danger, to save lives. Glenn always put others ahead of himself, and he sacrificed his life the way he lived it, helping others in need.”
“David and Jay embarked on their improbable journey in 2002, setting up a nonprofit now called MyGoodDeed, and enlisting the help of many leaders within the 9/11 and national service communities,” the website reads. “With broad support from the 9/11 community, they had two goals: to establish September 11 as an annually-recognized national day of service under federal law, and build nationwide participation in what they called ‘9/11 Day.'”
The first happened in 2009, when Congress passed a resolution making the national day of service a reality and it was signed by former President Barack Obama. Since then, the group has been building a nationwide effort of volunteerism in remembrance of Glenn Winuk.
“Ultimately we wanted something positive to come from the loss of so many innocent people in such a terrible way,” Paine said. “We didn’t want the terrorists to forever define how 9/11 would be remembered. We wanted to focus instead on how our nation came together, the spirit of unity and compassion shared by so many.”
If you want to find a volunteer effort to join, many exist on the 9/11 Tomorrow Together site; all you need to do is enter your ZIP code to find one near you. And remember — the American spirit of volunteerism doesn’t just exist one day a year. Remembering 9/11 can be a year-round thing for you and your family.
#3 Way of Remembering 9/11: Take in Cedar Grove, New Jersey’s Tribute to the 2,977 Lives Lost in the Attack
For the past few years, students at Cedar Grove High School — many of whom were born after the attacks and almost none of whom has a direct memory of that day — have been getting an object lesson in how horrific that day really is.
They’re also finding out what it means to America.
According to WABC-TV, for the past few years, administrators and students at the high school have been creating Cedar Grove Waves — an art installation dedicated to dramatizing the gravity of the event by planting 2,977 flags on the front lawn of the high school.
“We made a promise to those people that we wouldn’t forget, and I want those students that are coming up that weren’t born to let them know don’t forget what happened,” David Schoner, Board of Education member, told WABC.
The students are first given an extensive social studies program giving them the background of the 9/11 attacks. Then, every student is given a flag to plant to honor one of the fallen.
It seems to have had a very big impact.
“I was just thinking how I’ve never experienced that and how I wasn’t really alive for it, so like how everyone views it differently,” sophomore Owen Posnett said last year.
“We also learned how many people internationally throughout the world had lost their lives on this day, and it’s very important to learn about,” Lauren Cap, also a sophomore, said.
“To me, having a tangible reminder of something an individual life that was lost kind of brings it back to how this can be applied to anyone’s life, that’s a person and not just a statistic,” sophomore Ava Silverman said.
And even as the heat wave in the East might be delaying the 2018 version a little, they promise they will be ready:
The brutal heat is delaying is placing more name markers in the ground.
We will not be deterred and will start again as soon as the weather breaks.
— Cedar Grove Waves 🇺🇸 (@CedarGroveWaves) September 4, 2018
#4 Way of Remembering 9/11: Attend Gloucester, Massachusetts’ Annual Parade Honoring the Victims and Those Who Died Serving in the Conflicts That Followed
There are plenty of local parades and remembrances around the country in honor of the 9/11 victims. One we’d like to shine a little light on is in Gloucester.
As we all know, some of the hardest-hit by the attack and its aftermath were those who served this great nation, whether it be locally or globally. That began with the firefighters and police officers who died trying to help those trapped in the twin towers or the Pentagon, but also included the service members who were killed due to the military actions that followed.
Gloucester wants to make sure that those who serve or have served get their due.
“Gloucester firefighters, police officers, veterans and members of the United States Coast Guard will honor all who perished on 9/11 at New York’s World Trade Center, The Pentagon and in western Pennsylvania,” the Gloucester fire department’s website reads.
“The ceremony will also pay tribute to the members of the armed forces who have given their lives in the ongoing war on terror.”
The ceremony will begin at the Gloucester Fire Department at 9:30 a.m. followed by a community gathering at City Hall — replete with a commemorative display honoring 9/11 victims.
“The civilians and first responders we lost on 9/11 were the first casualties in the war on terror that has claimed thousands more American lives in the 17 years since that day,” Fire Chief Eric Smith said.
“I want to invite the entire community to join us in collectively remembering their sacrifice and honoring their memory.”
#5 Way of Remembering 9/11: The Tunnel to Towers 5K Run and Walk
On Sept. 11, 2001, firefighter Stephen Gerard Siller was on his way to play golf with his brothers when he heard the news that our country was under attack. Siller, who was assigned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1, returned to the firehouse to get his gear and to respond to the site of the attack. However, he found the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel was already blocked. Instead of giving up, he put on his 60 pounds of gear and ran through the tunnel all the way to the twin towers.
He would end up dying there.
Every year, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation hosts a run through the tunnel that retraces Siller’s final steps — steps spent racing toward collapsing skyscrapers in order to help others.
Thousands take part in the event, which honors not only Siller but the other firefighters who died in the line of duty that day.
“Proceeds from the event support the Foundation’s programs, including those benefitting first responders, and catastrophically injured service members,” the event’s website reads.
#6 Way of Remembering 9/11: Help First Responders Now
America’s first responders are always at risk, and while honoring the 343 firefighters and 23 police officers killed on Sept. 11, 2001, is certainly a noble way to remember a sad anniversary. However, remembering 9/11 isn’t just limited to those who were killed on that day.
One of the biggest ways you can help is by donating to and supporting 9/11 Health Watch, an organization that helps first responders who have developed health issues related to their work in and around Ground Zero and the Pentagon in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
The group was one of the key movers in pushing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010, which gives lifetime benefits to any first responder who became sick due to his or her work around the attack sites.
However, the group says its the mission isn’t over yet: 9/11 Health Watch says on its website that it “is monitoring the programs created by the law and are ready to address any lapses in the delivery of services and if necessary to suggest changes that might be needed and making sure that responders and survivors have the information on how the programs are working that they deserve.
“We have already worked to help fix the early problems with the reopened September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and are continuing to make sure it and the World Trade Center Health Program provides the care for injured and ill 9/11 Responders and Survivors as the law intended. With the reauthorization of both programs we will continue to work to make sure they fulfill their purpose.”
And then there are first responders in danger at the moment. Firefighters battling the blazes out in California need your help, and America’s 9/11 Foundation — best known for organizing America’s 9/11 Ride, an annual motorcycle ride to the nation’s capital that helps raise money for scholarships given out to the children of fallen first responders — is also fundraising for firefighters in California.
The foundation says it’s been “in direct contact with CAL Fire personnel and (their union) to ascertain information on losses suffered by their First Responders. Our mission with the Foundation is to aid and assist our First Responders nationwide in time of need. We are now embarking on a nationwide fund raising effort to assist those First Responders who have suffered as much as or more than those they swore to protect.”
If you’re going to help out first responders this 9/11, both would be great ways to give directly to organizations making sure those in need are getting the support they deserve this 9/11.
#7 Way of Remembering 9/11: Donate to Another Organization That Helps 9/11 Victims
Remembering 9/11 isn’t just about first responders. It’s also about other 9/11-related foundations that do work to keep this country great.
In addition to all of the groups that we’ve already talked about, the most prominent foundation associated with 9/11 families is Tuesday’s Children, a group that derives its name from the fact that the attack occurred on a Tuesday.
The group works with families of 9/11 victims and first responders, families of military fallen, those who have experienced loss due to global terrorism or mass murder and others.
“Over the years, we have built upon our proven methodology, elevated our platform of programs and services, and established new ways to broaden our organization’s reach and impact,” the group’s website reads. “We have worked to research, validate, and codify Tuesday’s Children’s enduring approach to long-term healing so that we may help other communities in need.
“Our 15 years working with these communities has taught us that they need our long-term commitment and response; broad community-based outreach; a needs-based adaptive approach; evidence-based, resilience-building services; family and community involvement; and carefully selected partnerships.”
The FealGood Foundation, another group that works with the families of first responders, is also a fine choice.
Yes, those affected on this most hallowed of days deserve our thoughts and prayers — as does our country. There’s more that you can do, however, and these events are only the start.
However you decide on remembering 9/11, let’s make sure that we all keep the memory alive. Those who gave all deserve nothing less.
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