NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- The anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks is not just a day to remember the victims – it is also a day to do good deeds in their memory.
When the story of 9/11 is told, Jay Winuk hopes it includes the chapters of the days and months that followed.
"And that it is not just about the attacks, but about the way people coalesced and came together to get this country back on it's feet," Winuk, who pushed to make 9/11 a national day of service, told WCBS 880's Peter Haskell. "Everybody wanted to pitch in with acts large and small to bring people together,"
Winuk co-founded 9/11 Day in 2002 as a way to pay tribute to his brother, Glenn, who was 40 years old when he was killed on 9/11 trying to help others.
"He lived his life and died in service to other people," Winuk said.
"The idea was simple," said co-founder and 9/11 Day President David Paine. "Ask all Americans to do one good deed on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in tribute to 9/11 victims, first responders, recovery workers, military, those injured and others impacted by 9/11 terrorist attacks."
Now, 9/11 Day is the largest national day of service.
"Research shows that 15 million people each year participate in 9/11 Day by doing good deeds," Winuk said. "We want to get 9/11 Day to the point where it's a ubiquitous observance in this country."
One of the largest volunteer events is held at the the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, where 4,000 New Yorkers packed 1 million meals for the hungry. At least 100,000 meals will be donated to support the victims of Hurricane Dorian.
Just across the river from the World Trade Center site, hundreds turned up in Jersey City to give the gift of life at an annual 9/11 blood drive.
One of the lasting images of 9/11 is people lining up and waiting hours to give blood, says Rosie Taravella, the regional CEO for the American Red Cross of New Jersey.
"They wanted to bring hopefulness back in their lives and when you are giving a unit of blood, you are filling someone's life with hope and there's nothing stronger than that," she said. "It was such a painful day, and people needed to feel a sense of control."
On this day of giving back, Jersey City Battalion Chief Richard Gorman remembers the dust-covered 9/11 survivors flooding into his city on ferries.
"This fire department, this police department, this city, our name was called and we stood up and we were there," he said.
On the 18th anniversary of 9/11, many first responders and workers at Exchange Place are still giving back and giving blood.
"We got the word out and the guys answered the call, which is awesome," said William McClintock, the fire department's chief of special operations.
Some of the blood donations collected Wednesday will go to areas of the U.S. hit by Dorian.