“We owe more than division and discord to those who perished from the attacks and those who served in its aftermath. The anniversary of 9/11 should be a reminder to us all about our common humanity and the opportunity we have to help people and communities in need.” -Jay Winuk
On September 11, 2016, Global Peace Youth USA joined 2,000 volunteers to commemorate the sacrifice and service of those who gave their lives 15 years ago through service. Simultaneously, Tomorrow Together brought 5,000 volunteers in Washington DC, where a total of 505,000 meals were prepared for those struggling with hunger. Global Peace Foundation is one of many prominent non-profit organizations joining a new initiative called “Tomorrow Together” to support the cause of unity at a time when divisions widen and tensions continue to grow across the country and around the world.
Describing this new initiative, co-founder and executive vice-president of 9-11 Day, Jay Winuk, said, “We owe more than division and discord to those who perished from the attacks and those who served in its aftermath. The anniversary of 9/11 should be a reminder to us all about our common humanity and the opportunity we have to help people and communities in need.” 9-11 is often seen as a dark chapter in America’s history. However, the days and months that followed exemplified how a diverse people came together and uplifted humanity’s noble qualities, including compassion, faith, family, resilience, sacrifice, service, and unity.
New York University student Nasrat Nezia shared her inspiration that day saying, “I’m glad people are trying to change the negative feelings associated with this day.” City College of New York graduate Abdul Karzai showed his support when he experienced how “for the first time in 15 years, I have seen a light on this day of 9/11. I think it is imperative that we continue to foster a spirit of positivity….To support one another is the most we can do to help each other grow.” Throughout the day, moments of silence were held to remember the lives that were lost. Future Peace Corps volunteer Leslie Martinez shared, “I thought about all of those lives that were lost….giving back my time in their memory meant a lot to me.” Interfaith prayers were offered while “America the Beautiful” was performed multiple times throughout the day in order to show solidarity.
2016 marks the 15th year since the September 11 terrorist attacks. 2016 is also the 35th year since the United Nations established the International Day of Peace. This year’s 9-11 Day was recognized in conjunction with the International Day of Peace in remembrance, celebration, and service. GPF USA launched this 11-day campaign from 9-11 Day to September 21st, the International Day of Peace, in partnership with Service For Peace, Corporation for National and Community Services and the Compassion Games. Projects were held in Georgia, New Jersey, New York, and Montana.
In Atlanta, Georgia, youth from Memorial Middle School held a one week campaign collecting toiletries together with the Mission Continues recruiting volunteers from the Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy. The veterans expressed their excitement in working with the students and sharing their experiences in service to their country. A painting project at Start Theatre Community Center was also conducted, concluding with a park cleanup project to instill a sense of community.
In Billings, Montana, GPF USA worked with Veterans of Foreign Wars and a local motorcycle group of over 300 bikers to start the campaign. Fire Chief Paul Dextras charged those present at their 9-11 remembrance ceremony with a responsibility that, “The human race and we as individuals are the ultimate key to dealing with and removing the presence of evil in the world. It is our daily actions toward each other that plays such a crucial role in our future.” The following weekend, GPF USA worked together with the Drug Enforcement Agency, Elks Lodge, and local law enforcement in collecting 100 lbs. of unused and expired prescription drugs to prevent drug abuse in the neighborhood.
In New Jersey and New York, GPF USA worked with community organizations including Habitat for Humanity, Housing Works, Jersey City historic Harsimus Cemetery, St. Francis Xavier Church, St. John’s Bread and Life, and ZMI Foundation. Understanding the value of service, Adriana Romei reflected, “No matter your race, gender, or economic status, everyone always needs a helping hand. Unfortunately not everyone always has someone to give that hand. It is important that everyone is able to feel the loving hand of God through their life. We must encourage people to treat everyone with kindness, always, in order to build a culture of service with our generation.”
Through such trying times, service has shown to be the glue that has bound the divided human family giving rise to a new generation of peacemakers. Reflecting on this effort, New York University student Diane Choi shared, “I dream of a world where such an event like today is done in a macroscale and other countries can all join together as one team.”