9.11 Never Forget
12 years is far enough removed to beg the question. Never forget what? Those in their teens and early twenties were young children when 9.11 became a date we will never forget.
Looking back over these years always brings perspective. I did not personally know a single person who lost their life that day. I wasn’t even married to a firefighter at the time and did not make that gut wrenching personal connection until I met him a few months later, fell head over heels in love and watched the 9.11 documentary about with FDNY with him on a date.
My initial 9.11 experience was simply as an American in the midwest who felt her freedom threatened. I watched in horror with my colleagues at work and rushed home to squeeze my 20 month old son and escape to the park with him on that beautiful sunny day. Away from the media. Just he and I and God reflecting on the vulnerability and innocence of children in contrast to the pure evil some men are able to carry out. That day remains etched forever in our memories.
Almost 3,000 people died on 9.11. 343 of them firefighters. And more continue to lose their life to 9.11 due to exposure to cancer causing chemicals and other other dangers during the rescue and clean up effort. So many widows. So many orphaned children. So many babies who never met their fathers. You all know the statistics by heart by now and still just typing them causes a lump to well up in my throat.
That emotion quickly drove fundraising and generosity and acts of service. New foundations sprung up with all the entrepreneurial spirit and good will that we as Americans exemplify as a community. It was amazing. Out of the ashes we arose. Angered and motivated to do more.
And there is more. There is so much more. At age 40, I have already lived through a historic event that changed the trajectory of our nation. That spirit after 9.11 may not look and feel the same as it did in those moments but it spawned a movement.
9.11 did not just stir souls to go serve in NYC. It stirred a generation to say “What next? Where can I serve?” Watching our nation bond together in such a short time to accomplish such big work, was, well, very simply stated, inspiring.
Barriers to doing good were removed. People said “I can start a non-profit. No, I MUST start a non-profit and serve this cause.”
Fueled by rapid gains in technology, an internet full of knowledge running at an accelerating pace, Social Media connecting people every second of every day from every corner of the earth, the opportunities to serve today are endless. Overwhelming actually. When my daughter’s girl scout troop or my junior high schooler’s student council or our church or our firefighter wife organizations look for ways they can help be of service, the opportunities are more than plentiful.
From large, highly structured and visible organizations sponsoring trendy “must be seen there” fitness events to small towns raising thousands for their local childhood cancer hero. School supply and canned food donations that pack warehouses to the brim. Neighborhoods being restored and houses being rebuilt by armies of people giving up their Saturdays. Blankets knitted. Animals Rescued. Meals shared. Coins collected. Days of vacation given up to travel across the country and rebuild after a natural disaster. Children read to. Elderly visited. Hands held. Hearts warmed. (insert stat about # of non-profits since 2001?)
It’s not just the organizations but the magnitude of the efforts these individuals are undertaking.
Milestone making, bucket list worthy items they may have never dreamed they would accomplish. Women walking 3 days straight and sleeping in tents and raising thousands of dollars each in support of cancer research. 5Ks sporting 50 and 80 thousand people, many first time runners. 150 mile bike rides. 24 hour walk-a-thons. Memorial Stair Climbs in turn out gear. People are stretching themselves further and going bigger and wanting to do more.
Who is doing all this work? It’s you. It’s me. It’s your neighbor. Your child’s teacher. The teenager who bags your groceries. It’s everyone of us who decides, today I’m going to help a little bit more than yesterday. Volunteers who are convicted that watching DVRd HDTV from their leather recliner is not the rewarding definition of success they thought it would be and chatting on facebook alone in that room may feel good for awhile but doesn’t fill that void we have to connect with people and do good.
Is everything all perfect and roses here in America? Not even close. So many families are still living below the poverty line. Drug abuse. Human trafficking. Violent Crimes. Illiteracy and soaring school drop out rates. Unemployment. Scary diseases. Need I go on? No. But I am choosing not to dwell there. No one of us has the answer to fix even one of those problems. It hurts my brain to think about it and often brings division and disagreement amongst those who fight for one political perspective or another.
I chose to focus on the practical ways we can make a difference, especially when it can be a sustainable difference, and I challenge each of you to do that same.
Every one of us can contribute a little bit of ourselves towards easing some pain, making one day easier, wiping some tears and inspiring even a single individual.
Now let me pause for a moment. By focusing on the servants heart of our nation, I do not mean any dishonor to those who gave it all on 9.11.
A piece of our hearts is always broken for them.
But there is no doubt in my mind that those angels would rather us be motivated to do more and be more and make this world a better place than to sit around and cry more tears and worry more worries and think more what ifs. Especially if you are a fire wife and just picturing those images brings tears to your eyes.
As the years wear on, the power of the event to motivate and strengthen only continues to grow. That fear may have paralyzed some of us momentarily while many ran courageously to help and laughed in its face. But fear didn’t win out in the end. Sure we have more scanners at airports and more bag checks and safety precautions in large crowd events. But we didn’t stop living life.
We are more. More giving. More serving. More enabled by resources. More connected. More motivated than ever before.
Was 9.11 the trigger for all of this? Certainly not. America has always had a giving spirit. And did timing of technology and social media play a role? Most definitely. But who cares really. Stop wasting your time critically analyzing the viewpoint and just accept that all the conditions were favorable for this spirit to emerge. That’s all that matters so get out there and be a part of it. Go serve!
Last year, 9.11.12, was the first that I crossed with my community of fire wives at FirefighterWife.com. We were smaller then. Only a couple thousand strong. A few us of gathered and collected donations of sports drinks to give to our local fire departments.
Now here at 9.11.13 we are approaching 18,000 fans on our Facebook page and over 1000 members in our private wives groups.
I have never seen a community of women more eager to serve than these ladies.
When you take the 9.11 motivation and couple it with a Fire Wife who knows full well that if her husband were to face an event like happened at the Twin Towers, he would not hesitate but would run straight up those stairs into those burning towers, you have a woman on a mission.
This website is the epitome of a serving community. I am literally so overwhelmed with requests to share this or that local fire fundraiser that I haven’t yet figured out a good social media / website solution to make it practical and truly helpful to give their event some publicity. Besides, we want to do more than just share an emotionally tear jerking image across our facebook. These fire wives want to serve with their hands and feet.
So this year on 9.11.13 we are kicking off our #servefirst mission.
On the first of every month, fire wives all around the world will take part in a service event of their choice. It can be done as a group of fire wives or as an individual Or even if you are not a fire wife and want to be a part of doing good. We will share updates and photos
Kicking this off on 9.11.13 gives extra meaning as it is officially our National Day of Service.
Here is some background from 911Day.org:
9/11 Day (http://911day.org) was created in 2002 by the nonprofit group MyGoodDeed with widespread support of the 9/11 community. The mission is to create a permanent and positive way to observe 9/11 each year. In 2009, Congress joined together with President Barack Obama to pass bipartisan legislation officially recognizing September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. Each year, more than 30 million Americans observe 9/11 by helping others, making 9/11 the single largest day of charitable activity U.S. history.
How Do I Participate in #servefirst and the National Day of Service?
1. Pick an act of service, a good deed or even just a quiet time of prayer or meditation or a financial donation. Pick something that fits you.
2. Fill out the short form here at the bottom of this page to add your name to our “acts of service” list by simply sharing with us how you intend to participate. You can also pledge your service at 911day.org and join the 30 million other Americans who have participated.
3. Share this graphic on your Facebook page or to set as your Facebook Page header to encourage everyone that 9.11 is day to do more and be more and serve more.
4. Then go do what you said you would do! Do your service! (and if you want to video or photo yourself serving or share your thoughts, we’d love to have that!)
That’s it. You know what I love about this? It’s simple. There are no excuses. It does not require some big expensive media campaign. It’s just the summation of a lot of simple acts that in the end leave the world a better place that day.
We will pick a few participants after the event to share their stories of service and good will.
Don’t feel like you have to go and do some big deal thing because remember this is about everyone doing what they can. Maybe all you can do is stop for 5 minutes of prayer or buy a cup of coffee for the guy next you at the donut shop. Or maybe you can go big and feel inspired to take the day off work to clean up the yard of an elderly neighbor. Or maybe you can just login and make an online donation to a charity of your choice.
It’s not a competition with anyone but yourself. It’s a challenge for you to add a little bit extra to this momentum to serve. And its in honor of those who gave everything 12 years ago that fateful day.
Get your Fire Strong(TM) on and go.