9/11: National Day of Remembrance

Sandy Scott
Director of Media Relations, Corporation for National and Community Service
Friday, September 11, 2009; 1:00 PM

President Obama marked the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks since his election with a national call to public service, a wreath-laying and a solemn moment of silence.

Americans across the country will honor the victims and heroes of the 9/11 tragedy by serving their neighbors and communities as part of the first-ever federally recognized September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance.

Sandy Scott, director of Media Relations for the Corporation for National and Community Service, was online Friday, Sept. 11, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss public service and today's commemorative events.

To find out more, go to Serve.org.


Sandy Scott: Hi, Sandy Scott here, looking forward to your questions about the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance.

Across the country today, tens of thousands of Americans are honoring the memory of the victims and heroes of 9/11 by engaging in service in their communities. The idea of making 9/11 a day of service and remembrance started with 9/11 family members seven years ago, and this year was enacted into legislation. Projects are taking place in all 50 states, and many are focused on supporting veterans, soldiers, and first responders.


New York, N.Y.: In how many places dooes your organization have events underway today? What are some of these events?

Sandy Scott: Projects are taking place in every state -- here are a few examples -- In Boston, hundreds of volunteers will fill care packages and write letters to military personnel serving overseas. Volunteers in New Hampshire will collect and bag 7,000 dental supply kits for Manchester school children. More than 9,000 volunteers are expected to turn out today for projects in Seattle including habitat restoration and neighborhood cleanups and renovating a child care center.


Fairfax, Va.: What made the family members consider public service as a way of honoring those killed in the 9/11 attacks?

Sandy Scott: One of the leaders of this effort is Jay Winuk, whose brother Glenn was a volunteer firefighter and EMT who died in the collapse of the World Trade Center South Tower. He cofounded the organization MyGoodDeed which has worked with other family members and organizations to gain support for this idea. Here's how he describes it: "The anniversary of 9/11 is always a very personal day of sadness and reflection for me and my family, but it can also be a day when the nation comes together to embrace once more the spirit of compassion that helped our family and the entire 9/11 community see us through the very dark days following the attacks. Rightly so the anniversary of September 11 will finally become a national day of service and remembrance and such a designation not only pays appropriate tribute to those who were lost and those who rose in service, but also provides a constructive and meaningful way forward for our nation."


washingtonpost.com: Honoring the Dead by Serving the Living (Post, Sept. 11)


Washington, D.C.: How can we continue to remember those who lost their lives by serving our nation year round?

Sandy Scott: We can never forget the horror of what happened eight years ago. That is why the 9/11 families who pushed for this designation ensured that it emphasizes both service and remembrance. And many of the events taking place today are focused on remembering those who perished. The added emphasis on service is aimed on rekindling the sense of compassion and unity that enveloped our nation in the weeks and months after the attacks and helped us through those dark days. One of the hopes is that serving on 9/11 could also be a springboard for serving throughout the year. Our agency also leads the Martin Luther King Day of Service, and we've seen countless examples of people whose one-day volunteering turns into a longer term commitment.


McLean, Va.: What are businesses doing to contribute to the volunteer service and effort?

Sandy Scott: Many employers, small and large, are participating in the service day. GlaxoSmithKline employees are serving as literacy volunteers in Harlem. Hasbro employees are assemble supplies for families of people with HIV and AIDS. About 4,000 Microsoft employees are serving in various projects in Seattle.

Timberland made a very strong commitment to the Clara Barton School in the Bronx nine years ago. That year, to close an annual strategy meeting with top executives and key retailers, Timberland scheduled a day of service to transform the school. After the terrorist attacks, the company pledged to serve in that school every year until the youngest child then attending the school graduated. This year's service event will be spent building an outdoor learning garden in what is today an empty lot in the neighborhood.


Washington, D.C.: How do most of the families feel about the world now and the U.S. in particular. Are we safer now than back in 2001?

Sandy Scott: That's a question that's beyond my range. I'd expect there are a diverse set of views. One of the things that we learned from Jay Winuk is that the 9/11 family community is large and holds a wide range of views on various issues. But he noted that there is a strong level of agreement among the families about this idea of making 9/11 a National Day of Service and Remembrance. We are seeing that same spirit reflected today -- people from all different background are coming together to make a difference through service. This idea has support from the highest levels of our political leadership as well. Congress included this designation in the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act that passed with strong bipartisan support, and today President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, an more than a dozen Cabinet Secretaries are participating in service in Washington DC and across the country - joining tens of thousands of other Americans who are preparing meals at shelters, refurbishing homes of veterans, supporting vaccination efforts, and much more.


Bethesda, Md.: I understand that one of the things that makes this government agency so popular with liberals AND conservatives is that the work is so decentralized. Most people do their service work through local nonprofits, right? If so, do you know any nonprofits that are conducting service projects today?

Sandy Scott: Yes, the service projects taking place today are all happening through local nonprofits, community groups, faith-based organizations, schools and other community institutions -- groups Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross, United Way, Hands On Network, Communities in Schools. In many locations, they are being led or supported by AmeriCorps members or Senior Corps volunteers. At the federal level, our main role is to encourage this activity. One of the ways we've done that is by working with the White House to create www.Serve.gov, which lists more than 250,000 volunteer opportunities posted by organizations across the country. Visitors can type in their zip code and find opportunities for 9/11 or throughout the year.


Washington, D.C.: I like the idea of remembering 9/11 with something like public service because it adds an upbeat element to the obvious sadness of what happened to so many.

Sandy Scott: The anniversary of 9/11 will always be a day of sadness as we remember the terrible tragedy that took place on that bright clear Tuesday eight years ago. But part of that memory is also the extraordinary bravery of the firefighters who went up while others were going down, and the outpouring of patriotism and service that united our nation in the months after the attacks. By making this an annual Day of Service and Remembrance, we hope to rekindle the spirit of unity that swept the nation in the wake of the attacks.


Atlantic City, N.J.: So what happens next week when all the volunteers at these various places are not there to do whatever they do today? Is this a one-day commitment?

Sandy Scott: Good question. Some of the projects organized for today were meant to be one-day projects, while others are ongoing efforts. One of our goals is that people who may be volunteering today for the first time will like the experience and come back - and we expect many will. Most people who volunteer find that they get back more than they give - whether by learning new skills, making friends, or experiencing the profound joy and satisfaction that comes from helping others.

One other point. Today's National Day of Service and Remembrance also marks the end of the summer phase of President Obama's United We Serve initiative and its transition to a long-term, sustained effort. The President has called on all Americans to make service part of their daily lives. Since the launch of United We Serve in June, Americans have responded enthusiastically to this call by replenishing food banks, preventing summer reading loss, supporting veterans and military families, and meeting other needs.


Bethesda, Md.: What suggestions do you have for people with crazy schedules who still want to help? I can spare a half a day this week but only an hour next week and almost nothing the week after that. Is there an organization that will still take people like me on?

Sandy Scott: You are not alone! The demands of work, family, school and other priorities can make it hard to find time to volunteer. Interestingly though, our research finds that it is often the busiest people who volunteer the most. Our annual report (see VolunteeringinAmerica.gov)finds that the most typical volunteer is a working mother - who arguably has the least time of all. We think this is because volunteering is often a function of your social networks and connections. The number one reason people volunteer is because they are asked. A working mom may get asked to volunteer from multiple sources -- at her job, through her kids school, with a parent group. Also, volunteering is more a matter of how you choose to spend your time - for example people who volunteer watch 8 hours less television a week than people who don't.

That being said, more and more nonprofits and volunteer connector organizations are creating opportunities for "episodic volunteers" Check our Greater DC Cares as one example - they offer a range of different one-time opportunities, with some on nights and weekends. Also, many nonprofits are looking for volunteers with professional skills marketing, accounting, technology)and can work out a flexible schedule to work on a special project.


Sandy Scott: Its been a pleasure chatting, and thanks for your great questions. If you want to find a volunteer opportunity near you, please visit www.Serve.gov.


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