Remembering 9-11: First responders inspire us to unite in service to others Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Sep. 06, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Editor's View by Mary C. Uhler

Many things are etched in our minds from the events of September 11, 2001. Although people throughout the world were shocked by the death and destruction wrought at the World Trade Center in New York City, we also remember the courageous and compassionate service of so many firefighters, police officers, and volunteers who helped in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Those first responders — and so many others who helped victims heal and rebuild the city — remain true heroes in our eyes. I think they also helped inspire young people to follow in their footsteps in serving others.

Resurgence of interest in service

That’s perhaps one of the good things that happened since 9-11. There seems to be a resurgence of interest in community service in our country. Some of it is motivated by faith, witness the growth of service projects among our Catholic parishes, schools, and youth ministry programs.

While some young people may have become more afraid and insecure after 9-11, others may have realized that they had taken their freedom for granted. They may not have appreciated all the good things they have been given in their lives.

One way they can give thanks, they’ve learned, is by giving of themselves to others. Of course, this sharing begins in the home, where members of families can help each other and reach out to relatives in need.

Beyond our families, there are many ways to assist those in need in our neighborhoods, parishes, and communities. For Catholics looking for a way to get involved, I would suggest checking out your local parish for social concerns activities. You could also find opportunities to help through local conferences of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, an organization that helps the poor, or diocesan Catholic Charities agencies.

National Day of Service and Remembrance

There are also some national efforts to involve people in service. In 2009, Congress designated September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance under bipartisan federal law, and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) with helping to support this effort across the country. For the anniversary of 9-11, CNCS is working with MyGoodDeed and numerous other organizations to implement one of the largest days of charitable service in U.S. history.

On the anniversary of the September 11th attacks this year again, it is expected that more than one million Americans will unite in service in the same remarkable way that so many came together following the attacks.

As in years past, the CNCS anticipates that there will be service and remembrance activities in all 50 states, at which there will be opportunities for hundreds of thousands of volunteers to paint and refurbish homes, run food drives, spruce up schools, reclaim neighborhoods, and support and honor veterans, soldiers, military families, and first responders.

To find opportunities to serve during this year’s September 11th Day of Service and Remembrance, you can look for projects using the project locator tool on the CNCS Web site ( Or, to organize a service project in your area, find toolkits and other resources on the  Web site.

With the effects of the drought and Hurricane Isaac, I would anticipate that volunteers will also be needed to assist farmers and communities affected.

United in prayer and service

Above all, we can offer our prayers for our country and for all those who need help, that we and others will respond with the same courage and compassion that those first responders did after 9-11.

With the many divisions in our country in this political season, joining together to serve others is one way to unite as one people. Together, we can make a difference and hopefully build a future where peace and love, rather than violence and hatred, will prevail.

I encourage people to pray and serve on 9-11-12.