September 11: Pause. Reflect. Pay Tribute to Lives Lost.

(Editor’s note:  2016 marks the 15th year since the horrible attacks on September 11. As a remembrance of the lives lost that day and after, HandsOn Northeast Ohio annually participates in the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance to pay tribute to those lives and to the heroes that rose up as a response to the attacks. The 9/11 Day was created in 2002 by a nonprofit group called MyGoodDeed with widespread support of the 9/11 community (victims families and survivors). In 2009, Congress and President Obama officially recognized September 11 as a Day of Service and Remembrance. The goal of this day is to encourage individuals and organizations to perform good deeds in honor of those close to 3,000 lives lost. HandsOn annually plants American flags and name markers for each victim in partnership with the Great Lakes Science Center and we host “thank you” lunches for local fireman/women in Cleveland, East Cleveland and Lakewood. Each flag we plant is a life. Each flag a son, daughter, mother, father, brother, sister, etc. We plant them in remembrance of the victims but also in honor of those soldiers/families serving and sacrificing. We plant also for those who responded to September 11 and now have faced serious, life threatening health issues. We plant them in our busy lives, to pause.

Each year, we must pause to remember and reflect. We must teach young people who might not remember or who were not born, about those lives. Just as we must remember those taken from us through other past acts, conflicts, etc. Take time to watch inspirational stories like the one by ESPN on Welles Crowther, which is one of so many of heroism and sacrifice. Hear from survivors and families through special initiatives like the one from the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and StoryCorps. Visit the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.

One of the StoryCorps radio clips is from the parents of Christina Ryook. HandsOn had the honor last fall to plan a volunteer project with family and friends of Christina Ryook, a Greater Cleveland native, daughter, friend and victim of September 11.

Guest blog: Reflections from Michelle Han, friend of Christina SungAh Ryook and person who oversees the Christina Ryook Foundation:

On September 11, 2001 Christina was taken from us so suddenly.  She worked on the 104th Floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center for Cantor Fitzgerald.  That was a tragic time for the nation and a personal tragedy for us, the friends and family of Christina.  She grew up in Westlake, Ohio and went on to the University of Michigan.  She decided to take a break from getting her Double Master’s at Eastern Michigan University and moved to New York in the summer of 2000.  Christina loved children and was always very involved in the community.  She was a candy striper at St. John Westshore Hospital throughout high school and during college she worked at a daycare center.  For her 40th birthday (in 2015), we wanted to do something special that would commemorate her spirit.  We contacted HandsOnNEO and they were able to arrange our volunteer endeavor with Wigs for Kids.  Serendipitously, Wigs for Kids is headquartered in Westlake, Ohio.  That was the first sign that this was the right organization for us!  Also, Wigs for Kids is an organization that we know Christina would have felt passionate about.  Her love for children and helping others in need were hallmark qualities of hers and Wigs for Kids was exactly about that.  Our experience volunteering was phenomenal!  As we sat, sifting through all the boxes of hair donations, you could feel that you were helping make a difference in the life of a child in need of a wig.  You do become overcome with emotion when you hear the various stories of the children who may be battling cancer, or some other illness.  We hope to create an annual volunteering event on her birthday and thanks to HandsOnNEO and Wigs for Kids, we have set a precedent that will be so incredibly meaningful for years to come.

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