DOS 2013 photoI had just left a staff meeting when I stopped at a tv on the way back to my desk and saw the footage of the planes hitting the World Trade Center. I worked on Capitol Hill at the time so the next hour or so is a blur – it was controlled chaos as we all evacuated the Senate Office Buildings and tried to hook up with friends on the crowded streets around the Capitol while continuing to try to figure out what was going on and what we should do to ensure our own safety.  The day was horrible, terrifying, surreal and, of course, life-changing.  One of the many things that changed for me was my deep, deep gratitude and appreciation for our first responders, who I fear I had taken somewhat for granted before 9/11. The images of the firefighters rushing IN to the World Trade Center to help people still gives me chills, and in the days and weeks following 9/11, I had a new appreciation for the Capitol Police Force who, along with new procedures, barricades, closed off streets, etc, were there in full force to keep us safe. 

Fast forward 12 years to this morning when I got the opportunity to thank some of our local first responders here in Sioux Falls as part of AARP’s annual Day of Service, which happens each year on September 11.  On our AARP Day of Service, AARP closes all of our offices across the country so that all AARP staff can spend the day volunteering – at food banks, in schools, in parks, at senior centers, wherever there is need, we go!  Today I got to join our incredible Sioux Falls retired teacher and AARP volunteers in preparing and delivering fruit baskets and trays of home-baked goodies to first responders across our community – the smells of the treats were incredible, but even more incredible was the feeling I got making the deliveries around town and getting to thank our first responders in person. 

Since 9/11, I don’t take these brave men and women for granted, but I rarely take the time to stop and say thank you – but today I did, which was a nice way to make a sad day a little better.

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