Give back on a day that took so much from so many

Life Moments column
By Christine Bryant

I was about a year out of college, a young reporter for a tiny community newspaper about half an hour north of Richmond, Va.

The newspaper published twice a week and was about as small as you could get, meaning my paycheck was about as small as you could get. I opted to get a part-time job to make a few extra bucks, working the front desk at an extended stay hotel not far from my apartment.

It was one of those places where the clientele consisted mostly of business people traveling for work. Often they would check in for two or three days, wearing a suit when they arrived, as well as when they left.

I had signed up to work a shift on a Tuesday morning in September, mostly handling the checkouts. There weren’t a lot, since it was the beginning of the week, but there was one woman in a red suit who approached the desk a little after 9 a.m.

She was shaking and unable to make eye contact. All she said was, “Did you hear what¹s going on?”

As she explained that two planes had just hit each of the World Trade Center towers, I glanced over to the TV in the hotel’s lounge, watching a group of men in suits standing around it in silence, listening to “The Today Show” hosts go from speculating an accident had just happened to a terrorist attack was occurring.

It wasn¹t long after that when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, the World Trade towers collapsed and reports of United Airlines Flight 93 crashing in Pennsylvania aired.

Like most people who were old enough to remember, I’ll never forget where I was when the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, occurred.

Since then, Sept. 11 has been named a National Day of Service and Remembrance – a culmination of efforts originally launched in 2002. This effort first established the tradition of engaging in charitable service on 9/11 as an annual and forward-looking tribute to the victims, survivors and responders.

It¹s an opportunity to give back – on a day that took away so much from so many.

If you¹re interested in finding a volunteer opportunity – either for this weekend or as a recurring act of giving – go to serve.gov and click on the Initiatives tab, followed by 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance. Scroll down and click on Find 9/11 Volunteer Opportunities.

There¹s countless opportunities to make a difference in the community, with a need for help in all areas, from financial assistant work to neighborhood clean-up crews and Meals-on-Wheels volunteers.

In Reynoldsburg, a local group of volunteers has organized an effort to help residents in need of a helping hand.

Reynoldsburg Just Serve, a local arm of justserve.org, is hosting a food drive to support Reynoldsburg Helping Hands, which serves the students and their families in Reynoldsburg City Schools. The group is distributing 1,000 bags to residents who are willing to fill them with non-perishable food items of personal hygiene items.

Residents also can help by volunteering as a service coordinator who hand out the bags to friends and neighbors during the month of September, as well as picking up the donations at a designated time and delivering them to Reynoldsburg Helping Hands.

To volunteer as a service coordinator or to request a bag to fill, contact Crystal Lundquist Davies at crystaldavies@yahoo.com or through Facebook. Donations also may be dropped off at Reynoldsburg Helping Hands, even without the collection bag, she said.

I imagine some day my children will ask me about 9/11 – where I was when the attacks occurred, just as I did with my grandparents about Pearl Harbor.

I’ll share my story, but I’ll also share what I remember most – the compassion and spirit of service I saw in the days after the attacks when Americans united to help one another.

Though we must still grieve, we can use this day as a reminder of the importance of that continued compassion and as a way to honor the victims, survivors and first responders of Sept. 11, 2001.

Christine Bryant is a Messenger staff writer and columnist.

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