September 11, 2001 will forever be remembered as a day of terror, loss, and national pain.But 17 years later, Memphis volunteers are transforming that day of sadness into a day of service.
Spearheaded by the organization Volunteer Memphis, people across the bluff city took time out this 9/11 anniversary to give back and give a special thanks to those who serve and protect this community.
17 years later, the memories of 9/11 remain crystal clear.
“My mother called me and said, ‘the towers are going down’,” said volunteer Andrea Hill.
“It still rings a little bit of scariness,” said volunteer J.J. Doughtie. “It happened in New York, but it affected all of us and still affects us today.”
“It’s still surreal 17 years later,” said volunteer Scott Fountain.
“It was a day I’ll never forget,” said volunteer Nichole Epson. “First responders were running into places where we were running away from.”
But on this 9/11 anniversary, out of that day of unprecedented violence, there is now an undeniable spirit of volunteerism at community centers across Memphis.
“It brought us together more than any event I can remember,” said volunteer Nina Watson.
That’s why volunteers welcomed Memphis first responders for a meal, said thanks, and paid tribute to those who sacrificed everything serving others on 9/11.
“Most people in most situations, when something goes down, the average citizen is running away from the danger, where a police officer, firefighter, we are running towards the danger,” said Memphis Police Lt. Marcus Mitchell.
Lieutenant Mitchell served on the organized crime unit that fateful day.
“I remember getting the page from our supervisor to head back to headquarters immediately because it was a 911 situation, we were all on high alert,” he said. “That day was a big day across the United States. Everyone can remember where they were and what they were doing on that day. We definitely were because we went on high alert.”
The show of gratitude left the lieutenant and other MPD officers both humbled and honored.
“It definitely means a lot to the officers to know that they are appreciated, and someone actually cares for the work they do in the community,” said Lt. Mitchell.
“That horrible day has put a spirit of volunteerism, a spirt of pride, a spirit of thank you to first responders,” said Doughtie.
“It caused such togetherness but also at the same time so much pain. It caused the community to come together and really help others,” said Epson.
In addition to the meals for first responders this 9/11, volunteers also cleaned up five military parks Tuesday afternoon.
Hundreds chipped in and gave back throughout the day.