It is hard to imagine that anything good could come from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America. Yet underlying the memories of grief and shock that revisit us every year on the anniversary of the tragedy, we must also remember the unprecedented sense of solidarity and caring that arose in the aftermath of the evil. Truly, the United States has rarely been quite as united as we were back then. And while the anniversary marks the senseless deaths of thousands, it also reminds us of the acts of heroism and selflessness the event inspired by many, many thousands more.
The grief has endured on its own. But keeping that spirit of caring alive has taken the efforts of special people determined to have some good come out of the horror. Two of those people are Jay Winuk, who lost his brother in the World Trade Center collapse, and his friend David Paine, who in 2002 launched the effort to establish September 11 as a national day of service. Starting with a small nonprofit organization to encourage people to honor the day by performing good deeds, the movement led to the official declaration in 2009 of 9/11 Day as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. And by 2013, more than 35 million Americans were pledging to spend the day performing acts of community service and volunteerism.
Other good that has grown out of the grief:
- Family and friends of fallen 9/11 firefighter Michael Lynch created a foundation that has so far raised more than $3.5 million in college scholarships.
- John Feal established the Feal Good Foundation, which lobbied for the passage of the Zadroga Act and continues to advocate for responders and victims affected by the attacks.
- The family of Peter C. Alderman, who died in the World Trade Center, established a foundation in his name that now runs eight trauma clinics that assist victims of mass violence in Africa and Asia.