CAIRO - As the United States is preparing to mark the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, American Muslims are volunteering to serve their community in an effort to turn the horrific memory into something positive.
"I think it's an opportunity for us to stop and think and highlight those individuals who deal with violence and aren't often recognized," Olson, a businessman in Sanford, Florida, told Orlando Sentinel.
"It's typically a thankless profession, and it's a great group of people that they have over there.
Every September, the 40-year-old Muslim used to volunteer at SafeHouse of Seminole, a non-profit organization that combats domestic violence, to serve his community.
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Oslon began his volunteering mission four years ago before a Congress decision in 2009 to designate 9/11 a "National Day of Service and Remembrance."
Every year, he goes with his staff to spend the anniversary making repairs at the organization.
"With more than 400 people going in and out of our building every year, it really takes a toll on the place, especially the bathrooms," said SafeHouse CEO Jeanne Gold, whose nonprofit organization relies on modest donations to keep operating.
"Chad has been a wonderful, wonderful supporter."
As 9/11 memory falls this year in the middle of the week, finding time to volunteer was a challenge for Olson who chose Monday, the 10th, to allow people to attend other memorials Tuesday.
The country will mark the 9/11 anniversary on Tuesday.
In New York, there will be moments of silence to signal the times of impact of each plane: at 8:46 a.m, 9:03 a.m., 9:37 a.m. and 10:03 a.m.
Additional silences will be observed at 9:59 a.m. and 10:28 a.m., when the South and North Towers fell.
President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle will participate in a moment of silence on the White House lawn and then attend the Pentagon Ceremony, the White House announced last week.
Many Americans think the time may be ripe for turning the 9/11 anniversary more toward volunteerism.
"I think it would be a great opportunity," said Chris Allen, executive director of Hands On Orlando, part of the national network that pairs groups of volunteers with community projects.
"Anytime we can turn a day into a day to give back, that's a good thing. It makes a lot more sense than just having a somber anniversary."
"For the first 10 years, it was very difficult to get businesses involved," he said.
"Corporations didn't want anyone to think they were exploiting the anniversary. But in the past couple of years, that has started to change. â¦ It's really just the passage of time that allows people to focus on the volunteering."
In Florida, a meeting between members of the Islamic Society of Central Florida and Christians at Sanford's Holy Cross Episcopal Church was held to organize future anniversaries marked by volunteerism.
"I think over the last 10 years, Sept. 11 has focused a lot on the mourning and remembering," Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida, told Orlando Sentinel."I think it's time that we should give the community something positive to do, especially with how polarized and divided our country is."
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net