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How to Honor 9/11 Victims

Last September's terrorist attacks attempted to destroy at least a part of American society. Instead, those terrible acts have had the opposite effect, generating in many Americans a gritty determination to celebrate, strengthen, and rebuild their homeland – to show just how futile the hijackers' intentions were.

That impulse is exemplified by the USA Initiative, a program launched this month by the Points of Light Foundation, a federally supported group dedicated to volunteer service.

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The goal: to generate one community service project for each victim of the Sept. 11 attacks. The families of the victims will participate in linking their loved ones' names to a particular volunteer activity.

A few projects are already under way. One involves building a home for a needy family in Nebraska in honor of a captain killed at the Pentagon. Another being done in Minneapolis for American Express employees lost in the tragedy includes such activities as wetlands restoration and a clothing "sort-a-thon" for charities. The initiative is supported by the Unity in Service to America Act, a law passed by Congress five months ago.

These projects will provide a way for citizens to fulfill the president's request, earlier this year, that each American make a lifelong commitment to 4,000 hours of volunteer service. Focusing on service, getting citizens involved in their communities, is a way to reaffirm the nation's resilient spirit and its generous character.

It can also help bring healing.