Recently, I had the opportunity to spend time with a friend who is currently serving as a first lieutenant in the Army. As a native New Yorker who now has the image of the Twin Towers tattooed on his bicep, the events of 9/11 were his call to action.
"It was the worst day of my life," he told me. "I was 14 and helpless. Despite being O negative I couldn't even give blood. I didn't like feeling helpless and uninformed. That day, I vowed it would never happen again."
Stories like his are all too common with members of my generation: on that Tuesday morning we were old enough to now remember 9/11 clearly and were inspired to take action. We came of age in an era that has led many members of our generation to enlist in the military, to support 9/11-related causes, volunteer, and to work towards a stronger and safer America.
However, there already is -- and forever will be -- generations of children born after 9/11 who will not have personally experienced 9/11, who will not have the personal context to understand the events of 9/11, yet whose lives will be shaped by the changes brought about to everyday life because of 9/11. The challenge now lies in educating these children about the events of Sept. 11 in a manner that inspires them to take positive actions that will make America a stronger and better nation.
At New York Says Thank You we believe that the legacy of 9/12 -- a day filled with countless acts of humanity, kindness, love, patriotism and volunteerism -- is the channel through which we can shape the lives of these future generations of children. By teaching children the story of the New York Says Thank You Foundation -- the creation of which was inspired at the suggestion of a 5-year-old boy in 2003 -- we can impart upon them the important lessons of volunteerism and community service that fuels our work. Through such lessons we hope to create "the 9/12 Generation" -- a generation of children who will change the world through simple acts of kindness and service.
In honor of the 10th Anniversary of 9/12, the New York Says Thank You Foundation with the support of the Laurie Tisch Illumination Fund is launching The 9/12 Generation Project today -- Monday, September 12, 2011 -- at Claremont Preparatory School in Lower Manhattan.
Over the next two and a half years we will use the positive lessons of 9/12 to inspire, educate and activate 1.5 million schoolchildren in measurable projects throughout the nation. We chose the number 1.5 million as a tribute to the 1.5 million Jewish children who were killed during the Holocaust.
In November 2013, in honor of what will then be the tenth anniversary of the New York Says Thank You Foundation, we will set new goals for The 9/12 Generation Project to ensure future generations of children are instilled with the spirit of volunteerism and kindness that exemplified 9/12.
To all of those who flooded Manhattan with their kindness on September 12, 2001 and whose actions have inspired The 9/12 Generation Project: "Thank You!"
For more information about The 9/12 Generation Project please see the New York Says Thank You website.
Tracey E. Vitchers is the co-founder and National Project Director for The 9/12 Generation Project, which is the youth education and volunteer outgrowth of the New York Says Thank You Foundation.