'I Will' Campaign Founders on Day of Service Honoring 9/11 Victims & Survivors
As we prepare to remember the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the 9/11 Tribute Movement is encouraging people to perform a good deed or charitable activity to honor the 9/11 victims, survivors and those that rose in service in response to the attacks.
The Insider spoke to David Paine and Jay Winuk, friends and former colleagues who came together in the wake of the attack to form MyGoodDeed, a nonprofit that is partnering with HandsOn Network to co-lead efforts to organize the single largest day of charitable service in United States history. Learn more right here.
Where were you on 9/11?
Jay Winuk: I was in my home office in Mahopac, New York and I got a call from a friend to turn on the TV
, which I did just in time to see the second tower get hit. I immediately tried to get a hold of my brother Glenn, a lawyer whose office is downtown and who’s also a volunteer firefighter (from Jericho, Long Island) so I knew that if he was in the neighborhood, he was probably heading toward the towers. Glenn was a 20-year volunteer firefighter and EMT - so while everyone was running east, he went west. We kept calling him, tried his cell, his office, his home – and just couldn’t get a hold of him.
We know that he helped evacuate his law office at 195 Broadway, and then grabbed some equipment from rescue workers nearby. He turned west on Dey Street and got access to a triage area because when his partial remains were found, they were with other first responders and he had a medic bag next to him. Whether or not he made it in to the South Tower, we don’t know.
David Paine: I was born and bred in New York, but I had moved to California with my family years earlier. That day I was actually up early, getting ready to go on a business trip to San Diego when I got a call from a colleague at our public relations agency to turn on the TV.
What I remember most was, watching with my wife, this huge cloud of smoke come up and I turned to my wife Laney and said, “Did that entire building just come down?”
About a week later I flew to New York City, my hometown, and I went down toward ground zero - you couldn’t take the subway there at the time. When I got within three or four blocks of it, I smelled something I’ve never smelled before and I couldn’t go any further – it was horrifying, because you knew what it was – it literally made me nauseous.
Most people don’t know that fire burned for 99 days. When I saw it – it didn’t look real, it was like something that Universal Studios would have created – like someone made it – it was unbelievable.
What is the 9/11 Tribute Movement?
David: Jay and I knew each other for 20 years and shortly after the attacks, in October, we had this idea for a way to provide people annually by engaging people in charitable service. The initial idea was to ask people for “one day’s pay” as a way to contribute either funds or service.
In 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act – and in that was the provision that we had been working for.
The bill marks September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance, and that terminology is important because it honors those who perished and gave service but looks forward. There’s never a shortage of need and if we can all make the world a better place each year, that’s really the best tribute for the victims.
We felt charitable service was a positive and constructive idea but it was also about remembering the way we all came together after 9/11 – we weren’t red states or blue states, we were just Americans helping each other. We wanted to preserve that sense of unity and service as a way to honor those who sacrificed their lives, and we didn’t want to leave the first responders and members of military who stepped forward out of the equation.
What’s the mission/goal of the "I Will" Campaign?
David: As the first year of this campaign, this is a turning point for us. When the legislation passed, it added a level of credibility and this year we’ve raised over $3 million from major corporations.
The thing that I think will transform this into a successful movement is the “I Will” campaign by the call to action. The idea for the campaign came from some great minds in California: Kirk Souder, executive creative director of GOOD/Corps, Angus Wall, an Oscar-winning editor at Rock Paper Scissors and Deutsch executive Davi Sing.
Because of their help, we’re forecast to inspire 33 million Americans to engage in charitable service on September 11, which would make the single largest day of charitable service in U.S. history. In other nations there are days like this but in the U.S. this is very unique, but the call to action is so simple – do a good deed – who can’t do that?
Jay: We just knew it would resonate with people – we have multiple events in 24 cities – and there’s really something for everyone. Even if people can’t get out to volunteer, they can donate children’s books to the Boys and Girls Club or donate gently used clothing.
David: In today’s world, if you can’t get organizations to fund you, you can’t get things done. In addition to funds raised, we’ve received invaluable support from corporations - Best Buy helped underwrite our Facebook app (facebook.com/911day), generating quarter of a million fans in 60 days; American Express, GlaxoSmithKline and J.P. Morgan Chase are lead contributors; and Viacom has built advertisements in Times Square, is advertising the campaign on their windows and have created their own custom PSAs with celebrities - who knows the value of that? Other media companies, among them AOL and ClearChannel have provided millions of dollars in donated advertising.
We have not received a dime of federal funding – it’s all been privately raised – which is part of the reason we’ve received so much bipartisan support.
What do you see as the legacy of 9/11?
Jay: This is really the end of the beginning – this 10 year mark isn’t the time to shut down this observance, it’s really just a launching pad. If 30 million people observe and act this year, than we’re hoping for 100 million in the future. The lessons of 9/11 weren’t just about the carnage or destruction or terrorism, but about Americans coming together.
If people in need are helped by the loss of our loved ones, and in tribute to them, that’s about as a good a thing that can come out of this horrific tragedy
How will you spend the 10th anniversary?
Jay: My wife Carolyn, son Justin, and daughter Melanie will be at the unveiling of the memorial with thousands of other families. Then we’ll head over to one of the service projects - a school on the Lower East Side.
I’ll finish that night as I have on other 9/11s, by visiting the Firefighter Memorial Wall – it’s a 56-foot-long bronze sculpture depicting the rescue workers. It’s across from the south side of ground zero, near firehouse FDNY Ten House, and the names of all 343 firefighters FDNY firefighters who died are listed there, with my brother being the “344th,” and there’s a plaque with a dedication to him. It was funded via the law firm Holland and Knight (they raised all funds and contributed directly) that my brother Glenn worked for. Even if it’s two or three in the morning, it’s all lit up, and there’s people visiting all night long with notes and pictures and candles. It kind of grounds me after what is always a very, very busy day.
David: I’m going to bring my family downtown very, very early in the morning and we’re going to watch the processions come in to the memorial – the firefighters, victims’ families, and some are carrying bagpipes – it’s a very solemn and moving moment. You really feel what this mean to all of them – I’d like to give my family the chance to experience that.
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