Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I Remember ... But Do They?

Where were you on 9/11? That's the question we ask each other, the refrain that binds us together, as we think back on those tragic events 11 years ago.

My memories are a little different than most. I was just a month into my semester abroad, living and studying in Copenhagen, Denmark. I remember a classmate stopping me on the street to tell me, but it really hit me until that evening when I watched the news with my Danish host family. With my limited grasp of the language, I couldn't understand what the reporters were saying, but I didn't need to as I watched them replay the footage over and over again. Living overseas, life didn't stop for me the way it did for many back at home. It was, of course, the main topic of discussion, but adjusting to life in a new country kept most of us distracted.

It wasn't until a few weeks later when I received a copy of TIME magazine in the mail from my parents, the cover emblazoned with the image of the crumbling Twin Towers. I read the issue cover to cover, tears streaming down my face. That's when it became real to me. I had never felt so far away, yet so connected with home, with my fellow Americans.

Many of the Girl Scouts we work with have no memory of 9/11. For most in our troop, they were just infants or a gleam in their parents' eyes. To be honest, I don't know how much they truly understand. They've seen the images, watched the footage, witnessed the memorials and maybe learned about it in school. But is it real to them? On one hand, we strive to help them understand, to make it real in their hearts and minds. And yet on the other, I want to shelter and protect them from this horrible reality. As a leader, I'm not sure I'm capable of doing either.

But what we can do, as leaders and mentors, is teach girls the importance of honoring our nation's heroes, both fallen and those still in service to our country. We can help girls understand the courage and humility that comes in serving others, whether in acts big or small. And the beautiful part is, these lessons can and should be shared year-round, not just on 9/11.

  • Arrange a visit to a local VFW or American Legion unit. Our girls visited in 3rd and 4th grade to learn  more about the history of the American flag and flag etiquette. But they also got to hear stories from some amazing Veterans who so proudly served. 
  • Participate in ceremonies on Memorial or Veteran's Day.
  • Show your appreciation to first responders, including firefighters, medics and police, with Girl Scout cookies or just a simple thank-you.
  • Donate card packages or cards to organizations serving active and wounded soldiers.
  • Get involved with a service project or cause that your troop is passionate about, whatever that might be.
We may never be able to adequately share our memories or make 9/11 real for our girls. But if we are able, through service, to help them create a brighter future, isn't that just as good? 

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." - Mahatma Gandhi

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