Despite it being a particularly hectic week, I couldn't let the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 with sharing some brief thoughts on its connection to our work at Social Capital Inc. I was beginning to formulate the idea for SCI in the summer of 2011, and the 9/11 attacks provided impetus to move forward in two important ways. First, 9/11 served as a stark remimder of life's fragility. My takeaway from that was to appreciate each moment but also reinforced the notion that one must act upon one's passions and dreams in the limited time we have. I had an idea that seemed important, and it was time to go for it!
Second, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, people were particularly receptive to an organization that seeks to strengthen our sense of community in an inclusive way. In those dark days after 9/11, people were more mindful of their neighbors, and made a point to reach out and make sure friends and family were doing OK. And there was also a sense that one important way we needed to respond to the attacks was to focus greater attention on our our democratic values, which have always rested upon the importance of neighbors working together for the common good. We were ready for the 21st century version of barnraising. Given the receptivity to these concepts, SCI was able to get going early in 2002 much faster than even I had hoped.
SCI's very first major community project in Woburn, MA, was to organize the first anniversary of 9/11 as local Civic Participation Week. We organized some projects directly with other community partners, including the planting of 911 daffodils in a local conservation area, a community dialogue at the Woburn Public Library, and encouraging neighbors to light candles in the neighborhood that evening. We also launched our first community website, SCIWoburn.org, to feature a roundup of all the local observances held by churches, schools and other groups.
Our role in 9/11 anniversary observances has changed over the years; the date has been very close to our initial AmeriCorps orientation in recent year, limiting us from doing a lot of 9/11 programing. In fact, our new Corps starts this Monday, led by a Program Manager just wrapping up his first full week of work. So we hadn't planned on playing a direct role in organizing anything Sunday until...
Tuesday a jewerly store robbery in Woburn turned into a violent exchange of gunfire between the robbers and local police. Officer DiNapoli was wounded, and fortunately is recovering well after surgery. Much of Woburn, including my home, was in lockdown mode Tuesday afternoon and evening as heavily armed SWAT teams seached the nearby woods for the suspects. Needless to say, this had community members shaken up, particularly coming some nine months after Officer Jack Maguire was killed in the line of duty during a similar incident.
Hundreds of us were using Twitter and Facebook to actively exchange timely localized information throughout Tuesday. Social media also provided a good forum to support one another, particularly during this time when it was unsafe to leave our homes. But social media has its limitations--for deeper support, we must come together in person. Pastor Keith Anderson of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer suggested to me on Facebook that perhaps we should do something. After some quick livechat that followed and prompt reply of support from our Mayor Galvin and police department, we had put together the basic concept for the Woburn Unites vigil which we are holding tomorrow night. No, not convenient with a big training starting the following day; but convenience is not what leadership is about, not when something needs to get done.
Pastor Keith nicely conveys the link between this vigil, the local events here in Woburn and the 9/11 observance over on his church's website. I will simply say that I am glad to have the opportunity to spend time on this important anniversary with friends and neighbors, and show that when times are tough, we draw strength by coming together.
Originally published at http://socialcapitalinc.org.