Nightly News   |  September 11, 2013

A day rooted in grief sees a new light

While September 11th has become a day of solemn remembrance, many are turning it into a day of giving back. NBC’s Rehema Ellis on how many are taking time to volunteer on a day filled with painful memories.

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>>> it is still so difficult, 12 years later, as we look at some of the ways america marks september 11th . across the country this has become a day to do more than remember. it's become a day of service to others. in a way it rekindles the spirit of that day 12 years ago. yes, it was born of tragedy, but people were moved to care for one another. our report tonight from nbc's rehema ellis.

>> reporter: memorial ceremonies across the country, remember ing lives lost, families forever broken.

>> i love you, daddy.

>> reporter: and connections never made.

>> uncle teddy, even though i never met you, i know you're looking down on me today.

>> reporter: now americans are turning this day rooted in grief and sadness into a day of giving back. in new york city , dozens chipped in to hand out donated produce to hundreds of low income families.

>> it's not only important to kmem rate the lives that were lost but to also reach out into the community.

>> reporter: david payne launched the effort to turn this day of remembrance into a day of service as well.

>> we felt that volunteering and doing good deeds reflected the way the country responded to the attacks themselves.

>> reporter: he says today about 35 million are volunteering nationwide. in boston, stuffing care packages for homeless vets and troops overseas. in phoenix, renovating a community center in honor of 9/11 victims and troops who died in the wars that followed. at ft. bragg, north carolina , a mobile 9/11 museum is making its way across the country.

>> this is captain --

>> uh i learned more about firefighters.

>> reporter: turning 9/11 into a history lesson for those too young to remember. 6th grader mackenzie boswell is among 46 million americans born since the attack.

>> my daddy was in afghanistan.

>> reporter: her mother said it was a teaching moment for mackenzie whose father was severely injured in the war.

>> walked up and grabbed my hand and she said -- now i get it. i understand why daddy had to go. it means the world to me that she finally gets it.

>> reporter: bridging generations with powerful information and in the shadow of a terrible tragedy , doing something