Turning Tragedy Into Compassionate Action

This morning, as I listened to the names read aloud at Ground Zero, I was mindful of the devastating loss that each loved one continues to experience and the profound pain we all share. September 11th will always live in the hearts and minds of all Americans but none more than those who lost loved ones on that day eight years ago.

Yet as we remember the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters who were taken from us so suddenly, we must not forget that their passions and dreams were left for those closest to them to honor and pursue. So many family members and friends have so often chosen to serve and improve their communities to honor their loved ones. Time and time again, we have seen those closest to the victims inspired to work for causes and concerns, advocate for and volunteer on behalf of missions near to the hearts of their loved ones, choosing acts of kindness and respect to respond to something so incomprehensibly evil.

These responses were not just limited to those who lost someone in this tragedy. Millions of Americans witnessed the horror of September 11th and were moved to make the world a better place. They have taken up service as a memorial to the victims, honoring their lives by improving the lives of others.

Whether it be young people who lost parents in the attacks who went to New Orleans and reached out to victims of Hurricane Katrina; whether it be first responders here in New York who continue their service to this day, putting their lives in harm's way in order to carry on the essential, life-saving work of their lost or sick comrades; or whether it be the simple act of volunteering to help those who need it the most, these actions are personal expressions, a means of turning a senseless tragedy into millions of acts of compassion and unity. I can think of no greater tribute to the victims of September 11th than in the positive and inspirational actions that millions of Americans have taken on their behalf both today and year round, honoring their dreams, and making a difference as a testament to their legacy.

That's why I was so proud to support the Edward M Kennedy Serve America Act, which established September 11th as the National Day of Service and Remembrance. In this time of crisis and uncertainty, so many people feel the need to contribute to the greater good. We will harness these millions of hearts and minds to honor the memories of the victims of 9/11.

When we create hope and opportunity in the lives of others, we allow love, decency and promise to triumph over cowardice and hate. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." I applaud the families, friends and fellow Americans of those victims for choosing light and love through service as a means of honoring these victims on this day.