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Giving back again on 9/11

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FDNYMemorialWall1Jay Winuk, who lost his brother Glenn 13 years ago at the World Trade Center, spent last weekend with his son visiting colleges in Washington, D.C.



Among Justin Winuk’s prospects is George Washington University. His father was asked to speak there during freshmen orientation, and Jay’s topic was one that he’s pursued with a distinct passion ever since his 40-year-old brother rushed in to help at Two WTC on 9/11.

An attorney whose office was nearby, Glenn Winuk flashed his volunteer firefighter’s and EMT credentials so he could do triage before the tower collapsed.

Moved by the selfless response of Glenn and countless people across the country, Jay and another Long Island native eventually helped establish today’s anniversary as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. As people give blood, assist a neighbor, thank a first responder, or take a reflective moment, they do it in small part because of Justin’s Uncle Glenn.



Orientation at GWU includes a required day of service activities, which brought father and son to help paint and refurbish a local fire house.



“It was really very special, and very good for him to see some more about what I do, and an opportunity to volunteer around 9/11,” Jay said earlier this week. “And here are 2,000 incoming freshmen who are called to action in honor of his uncle and all those who perished.”



Today, as we pause to remember those lost during 9/11, many people will also step out of their routines to help either a stranger or someone else they care about.



Last year 47 million people around the world observed the anniversary by doing good deeds, according to MyGoodDeed, the nonprofit Winuk helped start to facilitate service projects. “Paying it forward” has become ingrained in the way we live — and not just once a year.



For sure, the 9/11 anniversary remains a complicated, bittersweet tangle in many other facets. 

There’s another fight in Congress over extending Zagroda Act funding for ongoing medical treatments of thousands of first responders. 
Controversy also lingers over what our government and others knew in advance about the terrorist attacks themselves. Most recently, as the New Yorker reported this week, there are questions why 28 pages redacted from the 9/11 Commission report remain classified, documents which compiled allegations that the Saudi royal family and government was complicit in the hijackers’ plot.

For survivors and victims’ relatives like the Winuk family, balancing remembrance with the cruel memories requires ongoing vigilance, as this column in the New York Daily News suggests.



For some, the crush of 9/11 has not abated. Images of that day get replayed again, triggering some of our worst fears, and we may also ponder what lessons were truly learned. Yet there are also fresh and thoughtful ways emerging to memorialize loved ones, including the opening of a new “Family Room,” an exhibition at the New York State Museum in Albany. This is a staggering collection of momentos family members gathered and sealed in a private office looking down at Ground Zero.



None of this will stop people like George Martin from helping out somewhere today.



GeorgeDMartin.911He is a friend of Winuk’s who took to the streets a few years ago to aid survivors. Best known as a N.Y. Giants star defensive end of the 1970s and 80s, Martin crossed the country on foot, raising $2 million for first responders’ and recovery workers’ medical care. He wore out 27 pairs of shoes on the trek. 

Martin wrote a new book in part about his journey for 9/11, Just Around The Bend.

Back in 2008, Jay joined George along the walk in Phoenix and Missouri, and later helped promote Martin’s book through his public relations agency.



I met Martin last year in New York during a family fun day for 9/11 families near the WTC site. He and Jay had just walked a 5K, George this time wearing neon lime sneakers. “These guys safeguard our freedom and it’s the least we can do to show our appreciation,” Martin said, reflecting on his trek to San Diego.
 
He offered that efforts such as what Jay Winuk helped launch — which has become the “I will” day of service — will continue to thrive.



“Out of 365 days a year, if you can give one day of service, that’s not too bad to ask,” he said.



Not too bad at all.




Glenn Winuk’s story and the creation of the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance is chronicled for the first time in Ken Brack’s forthcoming book, The Ten-Year Quilt.

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