It's one of those landmark events in everyone's life, like the day President John F. Kennedy died. People remember where they were the moment they heard the news about the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Fifteen years later, the memory of that day has not faded. Although Palo Alto is 3,000 miles away from the epicenter of the tragedies, the community is gathering to remember the events of that day and the lives lost and to continue a movement toward unity, understanding and peace.
Palo Alto will be the nexus of three intertwining events: the Oshman Family JCC's Day of Service and Remembrance, Multifaith Voices for Peace & Justice's Peace Walk and the Multifaith Peace Picnic sponsored by American Muslim Voice Foundation. All three events, which are free and open to the public, focus on good deeds and community building.
For more than 10 years, American Muslim Voice Foundation has sponsored the Multifaith Peace Picnic on Sept. 11, but the organization's activities related to 9/11 go back much further. Founder Samina Faheem Sundas has focused on the theme, "From Fear to Friendship," to bring people from all walks of life together for greater understanding.
Sundas has said she believes that the path to peace is through building relationships, and the place for that to start is at home. Having experienced first hand the xenophobia directed at Muslims after 9/11, Sundas refused to be powerless. She has often hosted multifaith dinners at her Palo Alto home, and broadened her outreach to annual cultural events at the Lucie Stern Community Center, in which hundreds of people have participated. Often, her outreach came from her own pocket.
This year's Multifaith Peace Picnic will take place, 4:30-6:30 p.m., at Mitchell Park, 600 East Meadow Drive in the Redwood Group Picnic Area. Dinner is free and includes children's performances, activities and a multifaith service.
"Now, more than ever, our country needs us to come together as the United States of America," Sundas said.
Registration can be found here.
Earlier in the day, volunteers of all faiths and ethnicity are invited to join the Oshman Family JCC's National Day of Service and Remembrance.
Luba Palant, director of community engagement, said volunteers will create cards for active-duty American soldiers and first responders, make blankets, sandwiches and care packages for homeless veterans, bake cookies for local first responders, paint flower pots for firefighters and make treats and toys for service dogs. These on-site projects will be assembled between 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
Off-site projects, which will take place in the afternoon, include habitat restoration with the nonprofit group Grassroots Ecology at McClellan Ranch Preserve in Los Altos Hills and Cupertino and environmental maintenance with urban forest advocates Canopy in Menlo Park's Belle Haven neighborhood.
Advance registration is required.
"We remember what happened, and we need to unite and pay tribute to those who passed and those who did things to help. ... We really need to be together and do something good together to unite," Palant said.
The JCC is also taking part in the Multifaith Peace Picnic and the Multifaith Peace Walk. The walk, which is sponsored by Multifaith Voices for Peace & Justice, will bring together hundreds of people of all faiths to walk in solidarity to churches and synagogues.
A gathering will begin at 1:30 p.m. at Congregation Etz Chayim Synagogue and Spark Church, 4161 Alma St., Palo Alto, with snacks, music and stroller, wagon and bicycle decorating.
The 2 1/2 walk will start at 2 p.m., with stops and programs at University AME Zion Church, 3549 Middlefield Road, and Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church, 3223 Cowper St. Free shuttles from Mitchell Park to parking at Etz Chayim are available after the Peace Picnic.
Registration is not required, but it is recommended.