This time of year, many people choose to give back to their communities, understanding that for some, the holidays can prove to be difficult. At the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, we remember especially the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and February 26, 1993.
In the spirit of giving back to the 9/11 community and beyond, many 9/11 family members and first responders have begun charities, providing everything from mental health support to financial assistance.
VOICES of September 11th, founded by 9/11 family members Mary Fetchet and Beverly Eckert, began as an organization to help other family members, first responders, and recovery workers navigate complex processes to find health-related and financial resources. Drawing on lessons learned and expertise, VOICES has evolved to assist countless other communities impacted by mass violence and natural disasters.
In similar fashion, HEART 9/11 deploys volunteer teams to areas impacted by manmade and natural disasters. Bill Keegan, a PAPD Lieutenant who served as the night operations commander during the World Trade Center recovery efforts, started HEART 9/11 in 2007. Since then, volunteers from New York City law enforcement agencies and building trades have aided in recovery and rebuilding efforts throughout the world. In recent years, these men and women have responded to Puerto Rico, Texas, the Bahamas, and many other sites affected by disaster.
The Tunnel to Towers Foundation honors the memory of FDNY member Stephen Siller, who traveled on foot in 60 pounds of gear through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to respond to the World Trade Center on 9/11. Each September, the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk begins at the foot of the former Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and finishes near the 9/11 Memorial. Many first responders choose to run the race in uniform or full gear, just as Siller did. During the holidays, the foundation’s Season of Hope provides 24 mortgage-free homes to injured veterans, Gold Star military families, and families of fallen first responders.
These charities comprise a small fraction of the nonprofits that began in response to the 9/11 attacks. In the weeks and months after 9/11, thousands of people from around the world responded to the attack sites, and thousands more provided support to those affected in other ways, including financially. Although this holiday season serves as a reminder of those lost, it also provides opportunity to reflect on the ways we can draw on the lessons learned 18 years ago and respond with kindness and generosity to those around us.
By 9/11 Memorial Staff