Across the nation, compassionate Americans are planning memorials to honor the dead and celebrations to honor the living. Tears will flow and laughter will ring true, but beneath it all will be a solemn respect and gratitude for men and women who have given, and are giving, their lives for the betterment of mankind.Nine-Eleven is not just a day of remembrance, it is a day, a week-a time to reach out to others less fortunate than ourselves. "The anniversary of 9/11 is always a very personal day of sadness and reflection for me and my family," says Jay S. Winuk, who lost his brother in the 9/11 tragedy. "But it can also be a day when the nation comes together to embrace once more the spirit of compassion that helped our family and the entire 9/11 community come through the very dark days following the attacks." The healing compassion of Americans since Sept. 11, 2001, however, has reached far beyond our borders. Efforts are made each succeeding year to mend the war-torn Middle East of the devastation, disease, poverty and illiteracy that lay within. David Haddad, owner of Fumar Cigars in Phoenix, states, "My life changed the day I heard that 80 children in Afghanistan shared one pencil in a 3-walled schoolhouse with no roof. Right then I decided to make a difference in the world." As a result, Haddad donated over 200,000 pounds of school supplies to Afghanistan, the largest private shipment of its kind, ever. Literacy levels are declining in the Middle East. Female illiteracy is especially rampant and more than two million children in Afghanistan alone lack an education. Many are their family's sole support. Richard Miron of the BBC tells of young Nasim, aged 14, who earns $1 a day cleaning shoes-just enough to buy bread and sugar. "Rice," he told Miron, "is a treat." Illiteracy isn't the only dilemma, however. Twenty-five percent of Middle Eastern children die within the first year. Half die before the age of five and half of those that survive are severely malnourished. The United Nations estimates that 35,000 children will die this year from measles alone, due to a lack of vaccinations. War in the Middle East, like all wars, is ravaging the children. Many huddle in doorways just to keep warm and live in mud huts with sewage running past. Mohandas Ghandi, India's political and spiritual leader states, "If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children." Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa adds, "Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear." Nicola Goren, acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service states, "September 11 is a time to both remember the victims and heroes of 9/11 and honor their memory through service to others. Across the nation events are in the works to celebrate the memories of our fallen heroes, those still fighting and to reach out to less fortunate across the global community." Recently, Goren was asked by Congress to lead the first 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, a result of Senator Edward Kennedy's Serve America Act, signed by President Obama in April, 2009. This September 11th, leading organizations and national service leaders across the nation will be staging major events commemorating the federally-designated 9/11 National Day of Service and Recognition. Actor Gary Sinise, co-founder of Operation Iraqi Children (OIC), better known for his role in "Forest Gump" as Lieutenant Dan, will be among the Beacon Theatre participants. Sinise and OIC have delivered more than 650 tons of school supplies to Iraq. Earlier this year, David Haddad of Fumar Cigars joined Sinise in delivering 25 tons of supplies to Iraq. "I could no longer sit and observe what was happening around the world, especially to the innocent children in the war-torn countries of Afghanistan and Iraq," states Haddad. "No matter how little we have here, they have far, far less as they face the realities of illiteracy and disease. We must not overlook the children, for it is today's children that will mold tomorrow's world."
********** Published: September 11, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 21