Steve Nudelburg smiled at every person he saw on Sept. 11.
This was the good deed Nudelburg pledged to do as part of the annual “Good Deed Mitzvah Marathon” organized by the Lubavitch-Chabad Student Center on Friday.
Lubavitch-Chabad, in partnership with its University of Florida student group, has been holding the Mitzvah Marathon on the UF campus since 2003 – the second anniversary of the Sept.11, 2001 terrorist attacks – said Rabbi Aaron Notik of the Lubavitch-Chabad Jewish Center in Gainesville.
Any person walking through Turlington Plaza could write down a “mitzvah” or good deed in honor of the victims of the attacks. The deed could then be placed on a wooden display of the twin towers. The goal, Rabbi Notik said, is to reach 911 deeds, which is usually surpassed each year.
Some of the deeds included feeding the homeless, calling parents, donating money, giving blood, telling people they are loved and more.
“On a day like today, when great darkness was brought upon our nation, we’re coming together to pledge to do acts of goodness and kindness,” said Rabbi Notik.
He said unlike a traditional memorial, the marathon is practical and tangible, and the good deeds can set off a chain reaction of other acts of kindness.
Nudelberg, a New York native, said that he wanted to smile at people on Friday because “when you smile, they smile back.”
He remembers dropping his youngest son off at preschool in New York and watching the second tower collapse on the “Today” show with his wife.
“Life, as I knew it, stopped,” he said.
Fourteen years later, Sept. 11 is a celebration of life for him, and a celebration to ensure it never happens again, Nudelburg said.
Other memorials, ceremonies and events took place around Gainesville on Friday to remember the lives lost and the people who fought and continue to fight for America.
The Collegiate Veterans Society held a remembrance ceremony at Santa Fe College, and UF held a special carillon bell performance from Century Tower around noon.
Homeless veterans received clothing, food, haircuts, housing, employment assistance, and more at the Homeless Veterans Stand Down event at the Martin Luther King Jr., Center.
Alachua Habitat for Humanity worked with the UF Habitat Student Chapter to host a Day of Remembrance at the J. Wayne Reitz Union Breezeway on Thursday. The “Brush for Kindness” service project, which will refurbish two homes, followed the event and continued on Friday.