Next Wednesday marks the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I think all of us vividly remember the events of that tragic day and being glued to the TV for updates and news — I still find myself getting pulled in to watch commemoration events each year, which can become completely depressing and sad. Luckily, there’s another way to recognize the events of September 11th: by participating in the National Day of Service and Remembrance.

National Day of Service and Remembrance

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I’m happy to report that 9/11 has become a day of hope and service in the wake of such a horrible event. In 2009, Congress and the president established September 11th as the National Day of Service and Remembrance to create the nation’s largest day of service. Organizers of the 9/11 Day Observance expect more than 35 million Americans to participate this year by saying “I will” to offering acts of service big and small.

National Day of Service and Remembrance

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National 9/11 Day of Service

The idea for 9/11 Day first took root in 2002, when two friends, David Paine and Jay Winuk, a 9/11 family member whose brother Glenn died in the line of duty that day, began urging others to join them in paying tribute each 9/11 anniversary by engaging in good deeds. They launched a small website and co-founded a nonprofit, now called MyGoodDeed, the organization that continues as the caretaker of the national observance. The notion blossomed, eventually catching the attention of U.S. Congressman Peter King from Long Island, along with U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and then-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Together they and other Congressional leaders began championing the notion that 9/11 should be permanently established as a day of charitable service. It finally happened with passage of the ServeAmerica Act in 2009.

Individuals can share their plans for service at the 9/11 Day Facebook page or website, where you can actually dedicate your act of service to 9/11 victims by name. And, across the nation, thousands of volunteer service projects are also planned for throughout the week of 9/11 with large scale projects in New York City; Washington, DC; Phoenix; St. Louis; and Dallas. These projects, several supporting local first responders, will be managed by military veterans working with The Mission Continues. All projects are open to the public and those interested in signing up, or searching for projects in other cities, should visit 911day.org/volunteer.

This year, I hope you’ll remember 9/11 and act to serve your community instead of focusing on the tragedy of the past. What better way to honor those who perished on September 11th than by bettering the world around us?