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9/11 Day brings new light to one of the nation's darkest days

9/11 Day
9/11 Day

If there's anything we've learned from the past few years, it's that difficult times don't last forever. In an effort to transform the despair and grief felt every year on September 11th, 9/11 Day was born.

Lincoln Financial Field hosted 900 volunteers for 9/11 Day's Meal Pack Initiative on Monday: a day of service, unity, and the opportunity to create positive change.

"Something like 9/11 really did bring our country together from being a terrible day to a day of service where we're doing something nice for someone else," said Catherine McLaughlin, Chairman of the Board of AmeriCorps.

Lorraine Bay was the Senior Flight Attendant on Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania on that fateful day 21 years ago. Her family members, Emily Schenkel and Edwyn Root now hold significant roles that support the Flight 93 National Memorial.

Bay was a Bucks County, PA native, and a lifelong Eagles fan. Her family felt proud to see the Eagles lead the effort in Philadelphia on 9/11 Day, bringing new light to such a tragic day.

"She was probably one of the kindest people I've ever known. She loved her job as a flight attendant because she loved to help people, talk to people, and learn their stories," Schenkel reflected. "Her personality was always one of generosity and kindness of spirit, so to be able to take her and all of the sacrifices that were made that day, and try to do something positive, is very important to me."

Schenkel and Root have turned their pain into purpose, motivated to keep the memory of 9/11 alive among younger generations.

"For those of us who lived through the day, we'll never forget it," Root said. "But these generations now have no personal memory, they don't have that wound, frankly, because they didn't live through it. So, it becomes even more and more important to have the commemoration, to have the service to keep that understanding alive, so that we don't forget and we can do better as years go on."

Philadelphia is one of 11 cities to participate this week – more than 11,000 volunteers packed 2.6 million meals across the nation.

Eagles President Don Smolenski said a few years ago the organization contacted 9/11 Day to put Philadelphia on the list of cities, and he believes the first event has been very impactful. Smolenski's right – Philadelphia was the second-largest event nationwide in terms of volunteers and meals prepared.

"The opportunity to be here today with many of our special partners – to bring volunteers and financial support to make that happen, to support Philabundance, I think is great for the community," Smolenski said. "I think it's a reminder that 9/11 should be a National Day of Remembrance and Service."

Nearly 285,000 meals were packed throughout the day, and Philabundance will receive the full donation. As September is Hunger Action Month, this partnership seemed like the perfect fit.

Between supply chain issues, inflation, and the cost of food, Philabundance has seen the enormous impact COVID-19 has had on Philadelphians finding access to food.

"I don't think many folks understand the great need that's out there in terms of food insecurity," Charles Wright, Chief Development Officer at Philabundance said. "We send out about 130,000 pounds of food every week. So, this is just going to add to it and provide something additional that they might not have."

No Eagles event is complete without the help of the players themselves. Jordan Mailata was thrilled to participate.

"This is an incredibly humbling opportunity to do this on behalf of myself and the Philadelphia Eagles. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with Philabundance – to do something amazing like this," Mailata said.

Whether it's Sunday afternoon in the fall or the middle of a Monday, Lincoln Financial Field is always a place that brings people together.

"Everybody plays a role, and the Eagles are such a big part of this city," McLaughlin said. "The idea that they can take this role and be here and be a place that convenes people – not only for sports, but for good."

On Monday, September 12, the Eagles and 9/11 Day hosted a large-scale meal pack event at Lincoln Financial Field in honor of the anniversary. With September serving as Hunger Action Month, more than 900 volunteers came together to pack thousands of meals for Philabundance, a local food bank that sets out to end hunger in our communities. The meal pack event will be supported by Toyota, ACME, Campbell's, Johnson Kendall Johnson, Rita's Water Ice, AAA, American Airlines, Aramark, Comcast, Dunkin, Firstrust Bank, Hoffman's Exterminating, NovaCare Rehabilitation, and Philadelphia Insurance.

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