On September 11th, Americans recall the horrific events that occurred 16 years ago today. For New Yorkers, it's personal– many of us can never unsee the bodies falling, papers flying, people running.
How do you remember? Every New Yorker observes this day differently. By now, some of us have our rituals– listening to the names read, maybe observing a moment of silence or two.
For those observing the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance, today is about channeling the sorrow into something positive: giving back.
The 9/11 Day mission is to transform September 11th into a day of unity, empathy and service as a tribute to those lost or injured in the attacks and the many that rose up in response. To transform a day of evil into a day of good, their organization facilitates service events that connect volunteers with worthy causes.
At the 9/11 Day Food Packout, over 2,500 volunteers from over 40 companies, organizations and interfaith groups come together to pack half a million healthy meals for those in need. The service project is taking place at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, where the volunteers work in shifts.
Before they begin, each volunteer writes why he or she is participating in the project. There are many reasons and each is personal, with a unique story to drive them forward. The volunteers are young and old, New Yorkers and visitors, but there is a central theme: to do their part in making the post-9/11 world a better place.
At the event, volunteers are given the tools and food materials, and instructed by group leaders how to prepare the packable meals. Each table is filled with dry food goods, measuring spoons, and baggies which are then sealed. It's a team effort and more collaborative than your typical assembly line.
There are somber moments, especially for the morning shift. At each moment of silence -- four in total, each marking the moment each tower was hit and fell -- the volunteers lower their scoops, put down their baggies and turn to a stage, where the program's director rings a bell. The crowded and bustling room, for just a moment, falls still.
But don't expect to see frowning faces at this event: the music is pumping loud, and group leaders continuously hype up their volunteers. It's a party, and the cause is a good one.
The service project takes on a different meaning in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. A portion of the pre-packaged meals will go to Houston and surrounding areas as emergency food supplies to assist relief efforts.
It's just one of many service projects on 9/11 Day but it's one that will make a difference.
If you've missed the event, no worries: 9/11 Day doesn't stop today. The organization behind the day offers projects year-round.[Feature Image Courtesy Hannah Whalen]