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9/11 a reminder to give back to others

While the memories remain as vivid as ever, we’ve come a long way since the first shock of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Now 12 years later, the anniversary of that fateful day has come to signify something much deeper. Remembrance. Service. Community. These are the words that are now often associated with 9/11.

In 2009, Congress formally designated Sept. 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance — an initiative first activated by the families of 9/11 victims, survivors and rescuers as a way of honoring their lives and service.

This year, the United Way aligned its Day of Caring — the long-standing tradition, as the United Way explains, “established to promote the spirit and value of volunteerism, increase the awareness of local human service agencies and demonstrate what people working together for the community’s good can accomplish” — with the Sept. 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance. And throughout the Monadnock region students, teachers and other groups of volunteers are dedicating time to both movements, either Wednesday or other times as schedules allow.

Some folks have plans to split wood this weekend for the River Center’s Wood Bank. ConVal School District employees pledged to do some cleaning in the parking lot and around the sign of the Monadnock Early Learning Center off Route 202. And Conant High School students agreed to paint a fence connected with a new garden at Jaffrey’s Monadnock Adult Care Center — for adults with physical, emotional or social challenges. These acts of selfless service touch the heartstrings, and bring to mind the many people who heeded the call to duty on 9/11.

At the Cathedral of the Pines in Rindge on Wednesday, James Pelletier, who spearheaded the recording of names of people who lost their lives in the 9/11 attack or its aftermath, continued another 9/11 tradition he’s kept going since 2002 when he was living in New York City: Remember to Remember. He calls it a memorial day for civilians. And sadly, this year there were more names to add to the annual reading dedicated to victims of terrorist attacks in the U.S. — the Boston Marathon victims.

Sept. 11 and other acts of terrorism continue to shape how we see the outside world, and the years of war and public debate have continued to influence the vision for our international role. This is especially true now as we consider our options in Syria.

But it speaks to the character of our nation that we’ve managed to make 9/11 a symbol of more than terrorism and war. It’s come to evoke feelings of community and volunteerism, honor and resolve, tolerance and unity.

These positive acts of remembrance both locally and nationally bring us closer to healing and transcendence, and provide an outlet for reflection and positive action.

So if you haven’t yet found your calling this week, there’s still time to make a difference, perhaps the difference for someone in your own backyard.

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