Turning Horror into Hope: Jersey Cares September 11th Day Of Service and Remembrance Across New Jersey

By Dawn M Chiossi


     On September 7th, Jersey Cares sponsored their annual September 11th Day of Service and Remembrance Across New Jersey event. Their mission was to transform the horror of September 11, 2001–easily considered the darkest day in our most modern history–into something that generously benefited others and honored the fallen. 


     Everyone was affected in one form or another by the terror attacks of what is most commonly known as 9-11.  People felt overwhelming shock and horror at the loss of life, injury and devastation. Despite it, Americans dug inside themselves and rose up– united. They demonstrated integrity, strength, kindness and pure altruism, From First Responders to strangers helping strangers, people in droves helped without selfishness, without hesitation. On that day, Americans showed each other the qualities that all heroes were made of. They demonstrated exactly what it meant to be America’s best.


 Jersey Cares September 11th Day Of Service and Remembrance Across New Jersey event stemmed out of the national movement founded in 2018. It annually celebrates the hope and unified humanity–not the horror– of September 11, 2001.  


     Always ready to help and make a difference, Jersey Cares immediately thought of strengthening the communities deeply affected by the terror attacks in Hudson County. 


     “The September 11 Day Of Service and Remembrance is a day of unity, empathy, and service,” Jersey Cares Service Events Manager, Meagan Mulligan explained. “It’s an enduring and positive tribute to those lost and injured. It is not about hatred or negativity but remembering.  The event is very special, turning something somber into a day of celebration… keeping the spirit of unity and charitable service alive.” 


     This year Jersey Cares revitalized Jersey City’s Public School #12 Julia A. Barnes Elementary School in Jersey City, and Liberty State Park. 


     Warm and enthusiastic, Mulligan shared Jersey Cares is so passionate about this event, that they begin thinking about projects they would like to do way ahead of time, beginning in February. They reach out to the various organizations in May.   


   The PS 12 Julia A. Barnes Elementary School in Jersey City is dedicated to making their students responsible, fulfilled, and successful global citizens. Revitalizing the school was an easy choice to make for Jersey Cares.  Mulligan affirms that the organization often includes schools in their Day of Service and Remembrance event since they want to nurture them and give something positive to the next generation.


    Volunteers of all ages gave their artistry a whirl by painting inspirational murals on the bathroom doors, brightening up the front of the school, and creating kits. 


     “The Thank you Kits for First Responders are a kind of a cornerstone for this event,” Mulligan related. “They are a take-off of our care packages for servicepeople. They can include messages of gratitude, cards, gifts, and candy. Volunteers just love them. In addition to the joy they bring to the first responders themselves, the kits are something that families can do together. Even little children can make and decorate a card. Remembering the actions of these brave men and women is so important. Saying thank you to them is so important.”


     First Responders are often familiar faces at the September 11th Day of Service and Remembrance Across New Jersey event. “It’s very heartwarming to see them. Volunteers are so honored to have them with us.” Mulligan enthused.


    For those who enjoyed the outdoors and had green thumbs, the Liberty State Park project was ideal. Those aged 14 and up participated in maintaining the landscape, cleaning up, and beautifying the property.    


     “Liberty State Park is a beautiful and scenic location,” Mulligan said. “It’s impossible not to see the New York skyline, the views of the harbor, Lady Liberty, Ellis Island, and remain unaffected. It’s a perfect place to remember and reflect on the impact of what happened.”


     The spirit of the day resonated with so many. According to Mulligan, approximately 200 people volunteered to help, making this occasion an uplifting one. As well as locals, people across the state even joined in!  “I love to see the different people of different demographics working with others,” she said.


      Past projects included revitalizing memorials, 5K’s, landscaping, and so much more.     


     No matter the activity or project, for Mulligan, they can be inspiring teaching tools, opening doors to communication. “The event provides an opportunity for families to talk about September 11th and the attacks,” Mulligan related. “Many young people have no idea what happened on September 11, 2001. They were not there to see. By families participating in our Day of Service and Remembrance event, it opens up a conversation between children and parents. For the young children making kits, for example, they can talk about who first responders are, and the sacrifices they make for others. It gives them an opportunity to really share with them what happened on that day. How people unselfishly helped others. It’s all about teaching the younger generation and instilling new life in this event.”

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