Be Heroic on 9/11: Honor Those Lost, with Service to Those in Need

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Somehow, 10 years have come and gone since my brave younger brother was murdered by terrorists on September 11, 2001. The shock goes away, I guess, and some of the pain, perhaps, but not so much, really. Especially now, as this historic milestone approaches.

Glenn was a partner at the law firm Holland & Knight, at the time located just a block from what we now call Ground Zero. A 20-year volunteer firefighter and EMT in our hometown of Jericho, NY, Glenn sprung into action when the Towers were hit. He helped evacuate his colleagues, and then raced toward the South Tower, running into the towering inferno to save lives. Glenn did what firefighters do, and what he had done for two decades. Just 40 years old when he died, his partial remains were recovered in March 2002, medic bag by his side. A true American hero had perished, along with a horrifying number of others.

Glenn was a remarkable person, as giving a man as I have ever known. He always went out of his way for people, and not just as an attorney and firefighter. Taking care of others, doing good deeds, just came naturally to him. It gave him great satisfaction. As brothers, we were very close. We attended the same college, shared many of the same friends and spent many happy times together. Losing Glenn, especially in this way, hurts every day.

How best to honor those lost and, for that matter, those who rose in service to get our nation back on its feet in the aftermath of the attacks? What could we do, many of us wondered then, to ensure they would not be forgotten by future generations?

My friend David Paine called me with an idea soon after the carnage. Let’s make 9/11 a national day of service. Let’s turn the tables, and make 9/11 about acts of kindness and charity and volunteerism in tribute to those who were killed. Sounded just right to me, and to each and every 9/11 family member we canvassed about it.

We founded the nonprofit MyGoodDeed in 2003, encouraging people to visit our web site and register a pledge to honor the victims with acts of kindness toward others, each and every 9/11 anniversary. By 2009, millions of people had participated, helping individuals and communities in need with acts large and small. That year, after years of lobbying on Capitol Hill by MyGoodDeed and the 9/11 community, President Obama signed into law a measure passed by Congress, formally establishing September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. Last year, people from all 50 states and 165 nations and territories visited our web site, their charitable actions a great and productive tribute indeed to the almost 3,000 souls from 93 nations who perished on 9/11.

This year, for the 10th anniversary, our mission is to make 9/11 the largest day of service in our nation’s history — a lofty goal, but one surely in reach. This observance answers the oft-asked question – “What should I do on 9/11?” The answer for millions is clear and meaningful: Help someone in need. Give back. Pay tribute with steps of kindness on this path forward out of the ashes of Ground Zero, Shanksville,s and the Pentagon.

So please join us this September 11. Be heroic. It’s as easy as can be, just a few clicks away. Find something to do right in your own neighborhood or from your desktop by visiting our web site, www.911day.org, or our pages at www.facebook.com/911day and www.twitter.com/911day . You’ll be making a difference, and the world will be better for it.

About the Author

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Jay S. Winuk is president of the public relations firm Winuk Communications, Inc. and the co-founder and vice president of the nonprofit MyGoodDeed, which successfully advocated for 9/11 to become a National Day of Service and Remembrance. His brother Glenn Winuk, an attorney and volunteer firefighter, died in the line of duty on September 11, 2001.

Read more from Jay Winuk

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