On radio and television stations across the country, on highway billboards, and in newspapers and magazines, Americans are being introduced to a new phrase that is gradually reshaping the way they and the nation thinks about 9/11 for generations to come: “I will.”
“I will go up to a policeman or fireman and say thank you,” a young man says in one radio ad. A young girl adds, “I will volunteer at my church.” Another woman says, “I will help plant a tree.” These are called “I wills,” personal pledges by individuals to perform a good deed on 9/11. On the campaign’s website, 911day.org, people are encouraged to share their own good deed plans (“I wills”) for 9/11.
It’s all part of a prominent national public service campaign, now in its second year, urging the country to annually observe the anniversary of 9/11 as a day of doing good deeds in tribute to the 9/11 victims, rescue and recovery workers and military. The movement, founded by the nonprofit MyGoodDeed shortly after the attacks, is called 9/11 Day.
This year more than 30 well-known celebrities have joined the movement, by sharing and posting personal 9/11 stories and pledges as short videos on the 9/11 Day website. These include John Krasinski from “The Office,” Julianna Margulies from “The Good Wife,” Dr. Oz, New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz and defensive end Justin Tuck, rapper Fabolous, philosopher Deepak Chopra, and even Jason Acuna, better known as Johnny Knoxville’s side kick “Wee-Man.”
Krasinski talks about nearly losing his brother. Dr. Oz recalls having a patient on the operating table when he learned of the attacks, and actress Lucy Hale, in elementary school at the time, remembers her Principal calling all the teachers out into the hallway.
Organizers of 9/11 Day assembled a diverse group of celebrities for these videos, representing many genres, everyone from top television and film stars to philosophers, professional athletes and even Olympic gold medalists. In many cases, the videos are shot from mobile phones, as if they were home movies, providing a rare opportunity to see celebrities as ordinary people who, like the most Americans, were deeply moved by what happened on 9/11. “We wanted to show that when it comes to 9/11, we all are the same,” says David Paine, President and co-founder of the 9/11 Day Observance and MyGoodDeed.
“9/11 stripped away the labels which usually separate us as people, and regardless of whether you were a celebrity, a Democrat or a Republican, the 9/11 tragedy brought us together as people. And that’s something we need to remember and honor each year in tribute to those lost and heroic on 9/11.”
9/11 Victim Helps Inspire a Movement of Good
The 9/11 Day Observance was originally founded in 2002, in part in response to the death of attorney and volunteer firefighter/EMT Glenn Winuk, the brother of Paine’s friend and 9/11 Day co-founder Jay S. Winuk. “David called me after he heard that my brother Glenn had died as a rescuer in the attacks,” Winuk remembers. “He said, ‘what do you think about creating 9/11 as an annual day of charitable service in tribute to Glenn and the many others who died, were injured, or rose in service in response to the attacks?’ I thought it was the perfect idea, and off we went.”
Over the next decade Winuk and Paine built support throughout the 9/11 community, from countless corporations and nonprofits schools and on Capitol Hill, culminating in passage of bipartisan federal legislation by the U.S. Congress in 2009 that lead to the President of the United States designating September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. “After that, the support increased even more, attracting millions to the observance around the world,” Winuk says.
The I Will campaign was launched in 2011, for the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. The result was extraordinary. A remarkable 33 million Americans, from all 50 states, engaged in good deeds and charitable service as a constructive way of observing 9/11 last year, according to independent research conducted in 2011 by Horizon Consumer Science for 9/11 Day. This outpouring of compassion transformed 9/11 into the nation’s largest day of charitable service by a wide margin.
This year organizers expect the 9/11 Day Movement to be big as well. “While we’re not talking about the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, in some respects we are seeing more support in terms of organizations joining, an increase in website traffic and interest, and other indicators that point to a large observance again this year,” Paine said. The group expects to receive at least 100,000 visits to its website over the next few days, with tens of thousands of people sharing their good deeds on the site, and on the group’s 9/11 Day Facebook page. On 9/11, Paine and Winuk also have been invited to ring The Opening BellSM of the New York Stock Exchange, along with Marie Tillman, widow of war hero Pat Tillman, other military veteran and 9/11 leaders, and the co-founders of Action America, a 9/11 volunteer activation platform.
Separately, thousands of volunteer service projects are planned throughout the country, inspired by the movement. Many are being organized by local civic entities, cities, chambers of commerce, schools and faith groups. Prominent national nonprofits are also marking this day with service, from Habitat to Humanity and local United Ways to HandsOn Network and the American Red Cross. This year, 9/11 Day is also organizing its own volunteer service projects, in partnership with The Mission Continues, a military veteran training organization, Volunteers of America, and Second Harvest Heartland. Eight projects, designed to help train military veterans to become nonprofit and business leaders, are planned for 9/11 in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Dallas, Minneapolis, and Chicago.
All projects are open to the public and those interested in participating may register to volunteer at these local projects by clicking here.
Teaching Future Generations About 9/11
9/11 Day also is again focusing significant resources on educating children who were too young to remember 9/11, or not born yet. “It is important that future generations learn that 9/11 wasn’t just about the actions of terrorists, but also about how our nation banded together, put aside our differences, and emerged a stronger country despite what happened to us,” Paine says. Lesson plans for educators on 9/11 Day are downloadable free of charge at 911day.org and at scholastic.com/911day, and are being offered to more than one million public school teachers. The program is being implemented under special funding provided by American Express, Target and GlaxoSmithKline, in partnership with Scholastic and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which oversees the federal implementation of the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance. CNCS also is distributing free lesson plan posters to more than 10,000 schools.
This year, MyGoodDeed group has raised over $15 million in cash and donated services, close to what it raised for the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, with major funding provided by American Express, GlaxoSmithKline, Target, the NFL, Cantor Fitzgerald, Viacom, Corporation for National and Community Service, NYSE Euronext, Holland & Knight, Benjamin Moore, and Aerva, along with Clear Channel, which donated more than $7 million in media to help support this year’s I will campaign.
The group kicked off this year’s 9/11 Day campaign on August 16 in New York City, unveiling a 30-foot sculpture of the words “I will” in Times Square. Pedestrians were invited to have their pictures taken while standing as the “I”, with photos posted on Times Square billboards and on the 9/11 Day Facebook page. For 9/11, the I will sculpture will remain on tour in New York City, displayed at two locations in Manhattan, at 1211 Avenue of the Americas on 9/10, and again in front of the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site at 20 Vesey Street in New York City, on 9/12.
Source: PR Newswire