We remember September 11, 2001, the day America was attacked by radical Islamist extremists, killing almost 3,000 people and injuring more than 6,000 others. Unless we lost a loved one, we may forget that lives lost included 265 on four planes, 2,606 in the World Trade Center and in the surrounding area, and 125 at the Pentagon, according to Wikipedia.
The national recovery response in the wake of the terrorist attacks was swift and heartwarming, involving thousands of volunteers. As a retired federal employee, I was among others who hoped to return to service in a voluntary way to assist somehow, but the offer was impractical and not accepted. I could only resolve to do the work I was doing in retirement to the best of my ability.
In subsequent years the recovery evolved into a National Day of Service and Remembrance on Sept. 11 each year, officially so designated by Congress in 2009.
Interestingly, more than 13,000 children in the USA were born on September 11, 2001, and will turn 15 years old this week. Few of their generation may realize or comprehend the extent of loss that tragic day, as films are rarely shown and remembrance monuments of twisted metal from the World Trade Center offer only mute witness.
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This year hundreds of thousands of volunteers in charitable service in all 50 states will run food drives, clean up and fix up public facilities, reclaim neighborhoods and support and honor veterans, soldiers, military families and first responders. Those 9/11 birthday children will be among the volunteers, perhaps learning more through meaningful service than through history books.
As part of the National Day of Service, please be aware of a Gig Harbor effort open to all this Saturday (Sept. 10), from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., when volunteers are invited fan out from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 12002 Peacock Hill Avenue to various service projects in the community. At that site, participants can also donate blood, pitch in on the Food Backpacks for Kids in the schools effort, donate food to the FISH food bank or identify other projects.
As an ongoing service opportunity, one developing resource for families, church groups and service organizations, high school senior service projects and Eagle Scout projects, is the free website JustServe.org, where a variety of active service projects can be found. The site will be a year-round resource and it is hoped will gain popularity with people of goodwill seeking to give selfless service. Using JustServe.org, service organizers can submit service projects not involving fundraising and have them posted with contact information and the number of volunteers needed. By registering on the site, families and individuals may opt to receive email notifications of upcoming opportunities in their community.
On another note, many decades ago, in an era when many were trying to “find themselves” in some pretty weird ways, one faith leader I much admired shared the interesting concept that by serving others in meaningful ways we ourselves become “more substantive,” as he explained, and it is easier to find ourselves “because there is more of us to find.” Without trying to prove that scientifically, I will be satisfied to try to follow the most selfless person of all time, the Lord Jesus Christ, who did for all what none of us could do for ourselves through the incomparable service of an infinite atonement. Jesus taught us, and showed us in his daily walk, how to love God and love our fellow man, and we show our gratitude when we follow his example.