Sept. 6, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
A Long Island City resident is calling on the public to honor the victims of 9/11 by participating in random acts of kindness towards others during the lead-up to next week’s 22nd anniversary of the deadly terrorist attacks.
Kevin Tuerff wants residents across the city — and the world — to carry out at least three good deeds for strangers as part of an initiative he created more than 20 years ago following the tragic events that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
The goodwill initiative, called Pay it Forward 9/11, kicked off this year on Sept. 1 and runs through Sept. 11, but organizers say there is still time to take part.
Participants are asked to perform good deeds and then post a related photo of the acts to social media with the hashtags #PayitForward911 and #neverforget.
Residents can write thank you notes to first responders or active duty military members, buy a tank of gas for a stranger at the gas station, or buy a cup of coffee for a stranger at a coffee shop.
Other suggestions include donating blood, registering to be an organ donor, or volunteering at local food pantries.
Organizers hope that the good deeds will create a ripple effect and inspire others to do the same.
View this post on Instagram
Tuerff came up with the idea for the initiative after he was flying to Texas from France when the deadly attacks took place on Sept. 11, 2001, and his plane was diverted to the Canadian island of Newfoundland and Labrador. Tuerff said thousands of other airline passengers were also grounded on the island and locals there came to their aid.
“Thousands of unexpected airline travelers were provided basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter for five days in those small Canadian towns,” Tuerff said.
He said he was astonished by the level of compassion and empathy offered to the passengers by locals. When Tuerff offered to pay the residents back, they declined and asked him to pay it forward instead.
That’s what Tuerff decided to do — and then some!
The following year, on the one-year anniversary of 9/11, Tuerff began paying it forward by giving employees at his then-Texas environmental communications firm time off to carry out random acts of goodwill.
Soon after he established a charity, also called Pay it Forward 9/11 as a way of expanding the initiative. Tuerff has also written a book called Channel of Peace: Stranded in Gander on 9/11, detailing his experience that week.
Donations to Pay it Forward 9/11 go toward helping recruit new participants to carry out and promote random acts of kindness. For instance, volunteers have been known to buy large amounts of Starbucks coffee and then hand the coffee out to pedestrians or cab drivers with the message of paying the good deed forward.
“We all said we would never forget,” Tuerff said. “Our 11 Days of Kindness campaign is just one way to honor those killed in 2001 on 9/11, and also the heroes who volunteered with acts of compassion, much like what I experienced when my 9/11 Trans-Atlantic flight was diverted to an island province in Canada.”
Participants can also share the location of where they carried out the acts of kindness — or where they are planning to carry out their good deeds by registering on the charity’s interactive map. People from all around the world have already registered.