Kindness Of Strangers To Mark 9/11

WTC -- 9-11 --- Two women hold each other as they watch the World Trade Center burn following a terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York, in this Sept. 11, 2001. AP

Douglas Bowen did not lose any co-workers on Sept. 11, 2001, but he wanted his company to find a way to honor the 3,000 people who died.

Bowen, a managing director of ING Clarion Partners, persuaded his New York real-estate management company to mark the second anniversary of the attacks by holding blood drives in 25 skyscrapers the firm manages across the country.

Dozens of companies, large and small, are encouraging employees to spend this Sept. 11 doing good deeds - from writing letters to soldiers in Iraq to delivering food to the elderly.

Some hope the tradition will continue for years to come.

One Day's Pay, a nonprofit organization, wants to establish Sept. 11 as a national day of volunteer service. Founded by people directly and indirectly affected by the attacks, the organization helps companies plan volunteer activities in honor of those who died.

"A big reason we started this initiative is we don't want the memory to be lost," said David Paine, a co-founder and president of One Day's Pay. "We were looking for something we thought we could do to pay tribute on a lasting basis."

Paine said he believes many Americans feel the same way. Last year, One Day's Pay conducted a survey showing more than 70 percent of employees wanted to observe Sept. 11 in some way, but only 39 percent of employers were doing anything. And in many cases "doing something" meant observing a moment of silence, Paine said.

So far, more than 100 companies have signed on to One Day's Pay's mission, among them the public relations firm Peppercom. This Sept. 11, about 100 Peppercom staffers in New York and San Francisco will write letters to American soldiers as part of a company project called Operation Appreciation.

"It's a day of personal reflection," said Brendan Mullin, a senior account executive at Peppercom.

Marc Maltz, a managing partner at Triad Consulting Group, a New York-based firm, said organized volunteer programs are an excellent way of enabling people to deal with what happened by doing something meaningful. Triad has advised companies on ways to commemorate the tragedy.

A number of companies are independently marking the anniversary by supporting local charities.

Bloomberg LP and Oppenheimer Funds will provide money to Citymeals-on-Wheels to help cover the cost of a weekend's worth of food deliveries for the homebound elderly. Employees will also deliver the meals.

Ogilvy New York, the marketing and communications company, permanently moved its annual day of service from the December holiday season to Sept. 11.

The company, which allows workers to volunteer for any organization they wish, said about 1,000 employees - more than 60 percent of its work force - participated last year.

"After we moved the date, an unprecedented number of people went out," said Bill Gray, president of Ogilvy New York. "To go out and be active, that's the biggest food for the soul."
  • Brian Bernbaum

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