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Thousands of Americans to Commemorate 3rd Anniversary of 9/11 Attacks with Voluntary Service - 2004-09-09

Tens of thousands of Americans are commemorating the third anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks with volunteer and charitable efforts. The website,, is serving as a link for volunteers and spearheading an effort to declare September 11 a national day of voluntary service.

David Payne began the website a few months after the 2001 attacks. The website invites people to register on the site and make a non-binding pledge to help others on or around September 11 and links people to hundreds of groups around the country. Mr. Payne views the website as a bit of a matchmaker, linking those who want to give with those in need.

"The idea was to establish September 11 as a national day of voluntary service where we would all take time out of our busy lives to, in effect, rekindle that spirit of unity and compassion that we all felt right after 9/11 by helping others in need, however we decide to do that," he explains.

Last year, more than one million people responded to the group's call to "give back to the community at least a day's payment of service." This year, David Payne hopes the figure will more than double as people participate in a variety of voluntary activities.

"There is a group of people in Memphis from BellSouth who are planning to build wheelchair ramps for the handicap," he says. "The actor Gary Sinese is supporting a group 'Operation Iraqi Children,' which is collecting school supplies for children in war-torn Iraq and he is going to be putting together school kits. There are some children in Georgia, who are putting together supplies for children who are going into foster care center. There is even a group of flight attendants [who] have been raising money to donate an ambulance for a town in Mexico."

Many of the efforts are sponsored by companies and organizations. But the web site also helps individuals who want to make a contribution, people like George Angus, a car salesman in Alaska who plans to donate his commissions on September 11 to a group he found through the onedayspay website.

"What I did was on the onedayspay website they had a list of organizations that you could donate to and Tuesday's Children was one of those. I thought that sounds just perfect, what a great cause and so any cars that I sell on September 11 my entire commission is going to go to Tuesdays Children," he says.

Mr. Angus has put together his own local publicity campaign. If he generates more business than he can handle, as he hopes, he will give the sales to colleagues and split the commission with his share going to Tuesday's Children, a group organized to help children who lost parents on September 11. George Angus believes individual efforts such as his can produce inspiring results.

"[It's] absolutely important that we don't ever forget that day," he says. "Rather than look at it with hatred and pain in our hearts as much as possible I think we should try to look at it as a great opportunity to build and rebuild people's lives who were effected by September 11 and that spreads."

While Mr. Agnus helps Tuesday's Children, that group wants to return the generosity it has received.

Chris Burke founded Tuesday's Children after he lost a younger brother and many former colleagues at the company Cantor Fitzgerald, an investment firm that was located on the top floors of one of the Twin Towers. Hundreds of its employees died in the collapse of the towers. Now, Mr. Burke says, many victims' families want to do something meaningful to honor their loved ones on September 11, 2004.

"We have kids who are going into old folks homes and reading sports pages to men who are too old to see the newspaper kids," Mr. Burke says. "We have kids cleaning out public lots and turning them into gardens. We have kids working in soup kitchens. We have kids working with other kids in hospitals, 9/11 kids who just went through such a tragedy who are turning around and want to work with kids in hospitals who are just coming through surgery or cancer treatments. This is the idea: to give back what was given to us and to show this country that what was born out of the ashes of September 11, that community spirit that we have not seen in this country in so long, can be revived in a tangible way."

Onedayspay founder David Payne says the tragic consequences of 9/11 are not limited to the United States. Last year, people from 60 nations used the onedayspay website to link up with volunteer efforts. It is a sign, he believes, of the role the Internet can play creating a global community of compassion.