Thirteen years ago today, our lives changed dramatically. Like me, I’m sure you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing as we watched events unfold in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. Like many other events of this magnitude, that day will stay with us for the rest of our lives.
While the tragedy hit very close to home for all of us in this area, it certainly was more traumatic for those who lost a loved one, friend or co-worker. Today is most assuredly a time to remember and reflect on the tragedy and sadness of that day and those who lost their lives.
While difficult to imagine at the time, one always hopes for good to come from bad. In many ways, the tragedy of September 11 inspired many positive responses. We all were seemingly bound more closely together as people and as a country. I believe we all realized how precious and precarious life is: We held our loved ones a bit closer and talked and laughed with our friends more than in the past.
It also was a time that inspired many to make life better for others. An organization called Tuesday’s Child formed with the original goal of supporting children directly affected by 9/11. They have expanded their mission to help children affected by any type of disaster. The FealGood Foundation was created to ease the financial burden of medical care and educate the public about the issues 9/11 responders face to this day. VOICES was founded to promote public policy reform in relation to terriorism.
The events of 9/11 were the impetus for the creation of ACT for Alexandria, which was founded after Norma Steuerle, a local clinical psychologist, tragically died at the Pentagon. In addition to her daily work, Steuerle was deeply involved in the community. She preferred volunteering when it went directly to getting something done. She served in various capacities through her church, Blessed Sacrament, and also at T.C. Williams.
Soon after her death, her family and many prominent members of the community got together to determine how her dedication best could be remembered. This group later met with other caring and talented people who also were seeking creative ways to contribute to the community. As they connected, things began to happen. After many meetings and much thought, it was determined that the creation of a local foundation that could leverage donations to help the broader community was the answer. Thus, the Alexandria Community Trust, now ACT for Alexandria, came into being.
Now in its 10th year, ACT has distributed more than $8 million in grants through its donor advised and community funds to deserving nonprofits throughout the city and beyond. In addition, the support of local nonprofits through various leadership opportunities and one-day fundraising events, like Spring2ACTion, have made an important difference. Norma certainly would be pleased.
As we remember that tragic day 13 years ago, take time to reflect on those who lost their lives and their loved ones. At the same time, I encourage you to remember how you felt then and that sense of being drawn more closely to your family, friends and neighbors. I hope you can capture and hold onto that feeling for the next year and let it show not only in your relationships with those close to you but in your caring and concern for others less fortunate in the community. I then ask that you turn that feeling into action by working with the local nonprofit that best addresses the issue most important to you.
Together we can make a difference.
The writer is the president and CEO of ACT for Alexandria.