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Making a Difference: The World of Giving - Remembering 9/11

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To some, 12 years seems like a lifetime. To others it seems as if it flew by in the blink of an eye. Regardless where you stand on this spectrum of viewing time, twelve years is a significant number when remembering what happened in 2001.

September 11, 2001 is a day that never loses its importance. Just hearing the date, 9/11, brings most of us back to that day, where we were, what we were doing, who we were with and most important how we felt. I remember the feelings of disbelief of what was happening before our very eyes in "real time" and the fear of what was going to happen next, wondering who was hurt and feeling helpless, and when it would end. But while I could choose to focus on those aspects of the day, the images that are ingrained in my memory are the one I saw on television of the brave, brave men and women who went into those two towers to save as many lives as they could. Those people who were running into the chaos when so many were being told to run away.

Mr. Rogers of the famed PBS show Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood is famous for saying, "When I was a little boy and something bad happened in the news, my mother told me to look for the helpers. You'll always find people helping," and we can't forget to do that now, 12 years later. Look for the helpers and thank them every day for what they do in a time of crisis.

Today is marked on American calendars as Patriot Day as well as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. It serves as a remembrance to the 2,977 killed in the September 11, 2011 terrorist attacks. Year after year, we look for ways to honor those who were lost. Memorial services and moments of silence can affect you briefly, but think about what you could do for the survivors and loved ones that are still affected every day, even after 12 years have passed.

I often think about how we came together as a nation after this tragic event, especially when I am in New York City at the site of the World Trade Center. Twelve years ago we were hurt, wounded, scared and maybe even downtrodden, but we were never defeated. The people of the United States showed our commitment and pride in our troops and emergency personnel by getting in line to donate blood, sending what relief we could to the first responders and many went to Ground Zero as soon as possible to help with the clean-up and search for survivors.

Some may say it's time to move on. They might argue that this nation has grieved and the only way to heal is to stop talking about what happened -- in other words, to focus on the future not the past. In some instances they might be right. We should not and most likely cannot be a country that focuses only on its past, but on this one day I would argue we should. And throughout the rest of the year I would share that there are many ways to show support while helping this country continue to heal.

One example is the plan to memorialize and remember what happened. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York has one mission: to remember the victims. They are currently collecting information on every victim and creating an exhibit for visitors to learn about their lives before that day. They are also looking for contributions to create the most detailed memorial of these victims. The museum, which maintains the memorial at Ground Zero, needs financial support as well. If you would like to make a charitable contribution, get involved.

However, Making A Difference on this day doesn't just mean financial donations. MyGoodDeed founded the nonprofit 9/11 Day as a movement to observe September 11 not only as a day of remembrance, but a day to pay tribute to victims and honor first responders by taking action and doing something good. By doing one good deed on 9/11 or any day, you'll be promoting peace and improving the world around all of us!

Here are five tips and suggestions of things you can to be Making A Difference on Patriot Day:

1. Visit your local fire department or police department to say thank you and learn about the work they do. Firefighters and police officers risk their lives every day and they must be appreciated.

2. Donate your blood to the Red Cross in honor of those lost. Blood is always needed whether there's a national disaster or not.

3. Make a donation to one of the 9/11 Funds, such as the Flight 93 Memorial or the scholarships for children of 9/11 victims.

4. Do something in your community to commemorate 9/11, as it affected not just New York City but the entire nation. Although your effort needn't be so big, a firefighter in Indianapolis was behind a campaign for Indianapolis'9/11 Memorial.

5. Do something simple to show your American pride, like fly the American flag or post online about how today affects you.

BONUS TIP: Take time to tell the stories of that day to young people. It is said that those age 17 and younger will only know 9/11 through the history books; perhaps as only an event that happened long before their life and/or consciousness occurred. By telling the stories of that day - of the losses and heroes - you will be ensuring that we do not forget. This is my story to share:

On the first anniversary of 9/11, like many others, I went to mass at my local church. As I entered the building, I was handed a card the size of a bookmark. On one side it said 'Pray For Them'; on the other side was listed the name, age, residence and company of a person who had died on 9/11. The card I received said "Benjamin Walker, 41; Airmont, NY, Marsh & McLennan". At the time I received the card, I remember recalling that this person named Benjamin was a mere three years older than me and that he had died the year before.

As I sat in church, I remember wondering about him and making a commitment to myself to always remember him. As years have passed, I have passed by his age at the time of his death and Benjamin Walker has become an even more important part of my life. I often think about him throughout the year and especially as 9/11 approaches wondering who he was and what were his hopes and dreams. I still find that prayer card from time to time in my nightstand drawer. It is there now for safe keeping. The card shows signs of being tattered and taped together as I carried it for years with me in my purse and wallet, so that even in the busy-ness of the day, I would always remember. I would remember what happened that day; I would remember how precious life is; and I would remember Benjamin Walker.

By treating each Patriot Day as a significant holiday in your life, you will be honoring the nearly 3,000 individuals killed, including the 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 police officers and 37 Port Authority police officers as well as the 6,000 people that were injured and the hundreds of thousands of people impacted in this country and around the world. You will be Making A Difference (M.A.D)! What will you do to be M.A.D. on 9/11?