This essay was originally published on New York Cares’ blog.

I was a 7th grader on Long Island when September 11th happened. This was the major event of my childhood and I found it hard to process. In school we participated in many group memorial events and projects. This was a good thing for a 13-year-old and I was involved in many exciting things, but it left me unsure of what to do when I had the chance to remember the events the way I wanted to. As a child I had the community of my school to show me what to do on September 11th and as an adult I was looking for another community.

Luckily, New York Cares came in with volunteer opportunities just as they have multiple other times when I was looking for a community of volunteers. I have been a volunteer for New York Cares for a while when I saw information about the September 11th Service Day in the Team Leader Newsletter and signed up. I was excited to get the chance to be a part of something larger than myself.

I worked with an amazing group on logistics. We restocked the tables with bags of rice and lentils, loaded the bins of food, prepared the meals for shipping, loaded cars and helped out with anything else that was needed. I also got to enjoy my time with the enthusiastic volunteers who danced, sang and cheered while packing over 500,000 meals. The energy in the room was so powerful. It was a great way to give back and have a sense of community when remembering September 11th.

When packing a car at the end of the day I spoke to a staff member at the partner that the meals were going to. They were so thankful for the work that the volunteers were doing. They reminded me how all this work is part of a bigger picture and of the work that New York Cares does in the communities throughout the city. All the nonprofits partners that I have had a chance to volunteer with through New York Cares do amazing work. With that in mind, I am grateful to New York Cares as they have created a community of excited volunteers to give back on the 15th anniversary of September 11th and remember September 11th throughout the year by volunteering at community farms, on literacy projects and many other opportunities.