September 11th: National Day of Remembrance & Service

Whenever my parents talk about what it was like to be alive during the assassinations of President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, they get a certain look in their eyes. My mom always says it felt like the whole world was going insane. I don't think I really understood what she meant till September 11, 2001.

My eldest was a nine month-old baby when the Twin Tower were attacked. I still cry when I think about what it was like to hold him as I flicked on the news, watched the first tower on fire, saw the plane hit the second one, and then watched them both come crashing down. I remember that feeling of terror, feeling like here in Los Angeles we were next.

Even now, when small planes or helicopters fly low over my house, I get nervous as the sound of the engines grows closer. I never mean to hold my breath, but the exhale never happens till the sound of the engines fades away.

This morning as I walked my sons to school, I thought about how I will forever have the events of September 11, 2001 in my memory, but my boys will only know about it second-hand. What lessons will I teach them about what happened? What lessons will our society teach them?

I don't want my boys to learn fear, revenge, anger, paranoia or escapism through material possessions. Instead, I want them to learn the lasting positive impact of justice, love, and quality education. I want them to learn that recognizing the equality of all people and religions matters.

I want my sons to know that human rights and being of service to others is worth more than any barrel of oil, plot of land, or bar of gold.

For the past seven years, the 9/11 nonprofit MyGoodDeed has led the efforts of the 9/11 community to establish September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. The legislation finally passed in April 2009, and so President Obama has formally declared September 11th as a federally recognized National Day of Service and Remembrance.

I want my sons have the experience of being of service to others on September 11th, so in honor of the memory of those who lost their lives in Shanksville, PA, the Pentagon and the Twin Towers, we're going to be doing some trash picking-up in our neighborhood this afternoon.

You can visit MyGoodDeed's site,, to pledge your own good deed. Thousands of people have also posted their service plans for 9/11 at the federal government’s volunteer service website, Even if you are unable to do something today, try to do something tomorrow. It still matters.

Three years ago, while poking around on YouTube, I came across a promo video that Depeche Mode shot in 1990 for their hit song "Enjoy the Silence". They filmed it on the observation deck of Two World Trade Center.

I always cry when I watch it.

No, I'll never again feel the wind blowing in my hair while looking out over Manhattan from that observation deck. None of us will. But I have to create new memories by doing something good because there is still a hole in my heart. It still hurts.


nick said…
That's good, having a National Day of Service and Remembrance so people can do something positive to make up for the carnage of 9/11. Better then bombing the shit out of some innocent country because someone thinks they were responsible for what happened.
Liz Dwyer said…
It is nice to do something positive, but so strange to think that we've been fighting these wars for eight years now. I tend to think it would've been better to build schools and educated women and children in those nations.
Jen said…
I love this idea. Somehow I missed it, but it's on my radar now.

I have to echo Nick, too. And yeah, Liz, I'd much rather have those schools built... The world is in such chaos right now.
Liz Dwyer said…
It makes me sick when I think of all the good that could've been done in this world with the money that's been spent on these wars. We think past civilizations were barbaric but in some ways we're no better.
Anonymous said…
thanks for this. I'd been in Manhattan for 20 days when it happened. graduate school.

there's a whole in my heart too. I think a national day of service and remembrance is a great idea. I'm going to do something next year, because this year, I didn't find out about it until late, and I was dealing with the difficulty of remembering...

I want my sons to know that human rights and being of service to others is worth more than any barrel of oil, plot of land, or bar of gold.

this made me cry a little - it's so true.

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