Rabbi Yehuda Kaploun, president of the Orthodox Alliance of Florida, was in New York City on Sept. 11.
For Kaploun, “watching parents, wives, children in waiting areas, trying to find out and hoping that there were survivors” was one of the most difficult things to witness. He said he had no words to describe seeing people realize their loved ones were not coming home.
In the years following the devastation of Sept. 11, 2001, communities across the nation come together annually to remember that day’s solemn events.
In 2009, Congress named Sept. 11 a National Day of Service and Remembrance to honor the victims of that infamous day. The bipartisan decision encouraged people to take action, and on Wednesday, the tradition continued in Gainesville.
Alachua Habitat for Humanity held a tribute ceremony at 8 a.m. at Gainesville City Hall, and observed moments of silence at 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m. to mark the times when each of the planes crashed into the twin towers.
On behalf of the Gainesville City Commission, Commissioner Randy Wells proclaimed Sept. 11 a day of service and remembrance in Gainesville and called upon “all citizens of Gainesville to honor the lives and memories of those lost through participation and community service and remembrance ceremonies on this day and throughout the year.”
Alachua Habitat for Humanity volunteers will answer the commission’s call to service Thursday and Friday, giving their time to paint two homes of families in need, homes found through the Brush with Kindness Program.
“It’s a way of transforming our grief and our anger and our tragedy into a day of community building,” said Scott Winzeler, the organization’s executive director.
Winzeler and the organization’s volunteers weren’t the only ones looking to brighten the day through community service.
The Lubavitch-Chabad Jewish Student and Community Center at the University of Florida commemorated Sept. 11 with a Good Deed Mitzvah Marathon.
The event occurred from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Turlington Plaza on the UF campus and was designed to encourage participants to do a good deed in honor of a victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Rabbi Berl Goldman, the center’s co-director, said the student board wanted to hold an event to “bring something exciting and positive to a gloomy day.”
“We all remember that very horrific day when our nation was shocked and attacked in multiple states around our union,” he said. “This is an opportunity not only to commemorate and to memorialize, but to actually put into action something positive and to transform negative energy, what the terrorists wanted to implement, into positive energy.”
They filled out forms to document their deeds and attached them to a picture of one of the victims. The pictures were then fastened to a wooden replica of the twin towers to create the “twin towers of good deeds and love.”
Goldman said seeing people of all ages, races and religions take an interest in the project was inspirational, and it was heartwarming to read the notes left by participants in memory of the victims. The event was free and open to the public, and expected to inspire more than 1,000 good deeds for the day.
Like Alachua Habitat for Humanity’s tribute ceremony, the event observed a moment of silence at 12:40 p.m.
Rabbi Kaploun said people “want to be remembered for the good that you do and a lot of people didn’t have a chance to be remembered, so when we do something good in their memory, I think it’s a perfect way of remembering people.”
Gainesville Fire Rescue also held a ceremony at Gainesville City Hall Wednesday to remember those who lost their lives during the Sept. 11 attacks. GFR District Chief James Lovvorn spoke at the event on a day, he said, is one of self-reflection.
He said his profession is like a brotherhood. Regardless of where one works, you can’t help but feel like you lost one of your own.
“We knew there was a huge amount of firefighters that were inside that building that when it came down, there would be no survivors,” Lovvorn said. “They have families just like we have families and we can relate.”
Members of the Gainesville Fire Rescue observed a moment of silence at the station during the same time the twin towers went down 12 years ago.
“It’s important we remember all those folks who lost their lives that day,” Lovvorn said, “not just the firefighters and police officers, but the civilians and people that were trying to help that day.”
Jason Spain contributed reporting.