Friday, September 11, 2009
Today marks the eighth anniversary of 9/11. It is hard to believe that eight years have gone by but here we are. And the anniversaries have not gotten easier. I thought they would but they don't.

Today's anniversary is different since it is the first to be commemorated as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. This is a day set aside for everyone to give back, to pay it forward if you will, as a tribute to those lost on that day and the continuing sacrifices made by our armed forces.

In October of 2001, I volunteered with the Red Cross. It was only a month after the attacks and I remember lining up and meeting with a counselor at the Red Cross offices in Brooklyn to coordinate my service. I was trained, photographed for an ID card and told to return on a specific day for a shift.

When I did, I was handed a hard hat and my ID tag. We were told to get on a bus. We were being sent to a respite center 2 blocks from Ground Zero.

I was told to report to the logistics center where I would be handing clean, dry gear out to police, fire fighters, sanitation crews and iron workers--the workers on The Pile, which as we all know was the remains of two 110-story towers.

In they came, dirty, sweaty, dusty from digging through the rubble. "I need gloves. Mine fell in a hole."

"My pants tore. Do you have a pair of jeans in my size?"

"I'm going to take a shower. Do you have soap?"

I took sizes and handed gear out. I doled out tissues, lip balm, shampoo and conditioner, razors, clean socks, boots, shoes and jackets.

Every recipient, regardless of what he or she asked for, always, always said "Thank you. We couldn't be here without you." Me. A mom who showed up for two measly eight-hour shifts because that's all I could spare with a job and an nine-month old baby.

I forget what I ate that day in the cafeteria but I remember it was packed to the rafters with people. I sat at a table with a group of people. Iron workers. They'd driven all night from Texas. I met a guy who was starting an internet company in Nashville. Students. A female sheriff from South Dakota. Full time Red Cross workers from Canada and a the cheeriest, happiest, friendliest woman from England. A retired schoolteacher from Brooklyn and construction workers whose employer paid them a full week's wages but still let them volunteer one day a week until the clean up was complete.

2 blocks away was a scene of complete devastation but under that roof people from all walks of life came with a common goal: to help.

On this day of National Service and Remembrance, I encourage anyone thinking of volunteering to do it. Not only today, but maybe next week, next month, six months from now. A day, an hour, an afternoon. No amount of time or talent is too small but the rewards are huge.


Blogger Andie said...

God bless you!

Blogger CatMar said...

Wow! Meredith, I never knew that you did all that, I have to say that I admire you greatly for your volunteering to help out during the worst tragedy known to our great country. ,,,and like Andie said "God bless you!"

Anonymous Mom said...

Mer, I remember when you volunteered and was so proud of you. Your great Sprit, warmth and sense of community service is just wonderful. When I grow up I want to be just like you.
God Bless You

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