PROVO — Thousands of Utahns joined various projects led by stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Saturday to commemorate 9/11 by participating in a Day of Service.
It was all part of a larger, national effort to engage in helping others and building communities on the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
In Utah County, 16 Latter-day Saints stakes worked to clean up and beautify the city working along Provo's Center Street and the Provo River Trail from Utah Lake all the way to Deer Creek Reservoir. Gov. Spencer Cox joined a group packing meal kits in West Valley City. Other stakes helped clean around the Jordan River and on the Jordan River Parkway, and participated in numerous other projects that were found and shared on the JustServe website.
Cox said it is appropriate to remember the tragedy of 9/11 but he also chooses to remember the time shortly after when people stood in lines to donate blood to do something to help.
Shortly after 9/11, people did not care about others' political parties, religion, race or sports teams, the governor said. He asked Utahns to recommit to being better and kinder.
"Utah is a special place, we still care. We lead the nation in volunteerism, we lead the nation in charitable giving. But we have to lead the nation in kindness, we have to lead the nation in empathy, we have to stop treating each other like 'others' and start treating each other like 'us.'
"We're one America. We're one Utah," Cox said.
Gordon Wilson, stake president of the Lehi Young Single Adult Stake, said each of the stakes in Utah were asked by the church's area presidency to organize a service project on 9/11. Individuals in his stake helped organize the project on the Provo River Trail and Center Street and invited volunteers to make cards to thank care center, hospital and emergency service workers. Those were to be delivered Saturday as well.
"You can't do service without feeling it in your heart. To me, that's where it's at it's in your heart," President Wilson said. "I'm glad these young adults answered that call and came out and joined us and I think they really benefited."
President Wilson said that he was impressed that the reaction to the discouraging event of 9/11 was to do the opposite and serve the community. He called the day of service a way to put a "positive twist to a bad memory."
Karley Ludwig, who helped plan that service project, said it was really fulfilling to see all of the people coming tighter and the progress they made to help Center Street look better.
"I hope they leave just feeling a little lighter," Ludwig said.
Being a part of something has benefited her and others involved, she said, by giving them an opportunity to be a part of something positive.
"It's been 20 years. There's a lot of pain that we've had to work through, but this is a time to remember what we made of that, you know, coming together. And here we are 20 years later still trying to do that."
CJ Nuccitelli with the Provo Parks Department said volunteers were planting over 800 plants along Center Street. The plants are perennials and so they will help Center Street again in the coming years. Other members of the department were on the trail helping volunteers clear out brush to make the trail more safe and beautiful, and painting to cover graffiti on trail underpasses.
"We couldn't do it without the help," Nuccitelli said.
He and other employees of Provo have been working for months to prepare for the large group of people coming to serve on 9/11.