Bringing Communities Together Post 9-11

9-11-11 On this decade anniversary of a horrific worldchanging event, with media spinning stories of heroes, hearts and homelands forever impacted, I’m turning to the positive births of OFFLINE community building that arose after 9/11.

Scott Heiferman, Founder and CEO of, the world’s largest network of local groups, inspires us all with spirited zeal of how his creation of the “Meetup” was actually birthed by the 9/11 tragedy.

The need for human interaction and knowing one’s neighbors often comes together in disaster scenarios, but leadership to make those force fields sustainable has come in the form of the “MeetUp,” now 10 million strong, where people come together seeking those with like-minded commonalities to meet and greet, make new friends and share information and support ongoing. organizes people online in order to gather offline, face to face, with 92,000 local groups of 90,000+ topics sharing collective knowledge in 45,000 cities, all in an effort to “Do Something. Learn something. Share something. Change something.” 

Scott shares his story of 9/11 mindshifting,  where he swapped his former way of thinking…

“I was the kind of person who thought local community doesn’t matter much if we’ve got the internet and tv. The only time I thought about my neighbors was when I hoped they wouldn’t bother me” and was changed forevermore launching an entirely new life path and career direction.

He’s delighted us all by using the internet as a bridge ONline to bring people OFFline to form solid bonds and friendships up-close and personal.

Everyday I meet new people information sharing online who say things like, “Let’s meet for coffee after the meetup” or “I’m glad I got to meet you in person rather than the Shaping Youth avatar” or “Oh, I’m glad it’s a Meetup and not just a Twitter chat, I need more face time and less screen time to get out more.”

So thank you, Scott, for sharing a singularly positive outcome from such a horrendous world-changing event.

Here’s an outtake of his e-blast note to fellow MeetUp enthusiasts sharing his story of living a couple miles from the Twin Towers:

“…When the towers fell, I found myself talking to more neighbors in the days after 9/11 than ever before. People said hello to neighbors (next-door and across the city) who they’d normally ignore. People were looking after each other, helping each other, and meeting up with each other. You know, being neighborly.

A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bring people together in a lasting way. So the idea for Meetup was

Could we use the internet to get off the internet and grow local communities?

We didn’t know if it would work. Most people thought it was a
crazy idea — especially because terrorism is designed to make
people distrust one another.

A small team came together, and we launched Meetup 9 months
after 9/11.

Today, almost 10 years and 10 million Meetuppers later, it’s
working. Every day, thousands of Meetups happen. Moms Meetups, Small Business Meetups, Fitness Meetups… a wild variety of 100,000 Meetup Groups with not much in common — except one thing.

Every Meetup starts with people simply saying hello to
neighbors. And what often happens next is still amazing to me.
They grow businesses and bands together, they teach and
motivate each other, they babysit each other’s kids and find
other ways to work together. They have fun and find solace
together. They make friends and form powerful community. It’s
powerful stuff.

It’s a wonderful revolution in local community, and it’s thanks
to everyone who shows up.

Meetups aren’t about 9/11, but they may not be happening if it
weren’t for 9/11.

9/11 didn’t make us too scared to go outside or talk to
strangers. 9/11 didn’t rip us apart. No, we’re building new
community together!!!!

The towers fell, but we rise up.

And we’re just getting started
with these Meetups.

Scott Heiferman (on behalf of 80 people at Meetup HQ)
Co-Founder & CEO, Meetup
New York City
September 2011

Related Reading  by Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth

Media Literacy/Tough Topics:

411 on 9-11: What Do You Say to Children About Headline News?

Bin Laden’s Death, Media & Kids: Teach Your Children Well

Quaking Kids, Headline News: How Much is Too Much? (Japan) 

Resource Roundup/Talking To Kids (Terrorism topics etc)

Virginia Tech Tragedy: Media Coping Tips

What Will Kids Learn About Dr. George Tiller…And From Who?

Role Modeling Resiliency: How Are Kids Coping Skills?

Mass Media Has A Role to Play in Curbing Violence (news)

SchoolLoop: Digital Voice Alert (Siren SoundOff: Media Call)

Media, Kids & Grief: Different Ages & Stages of Loss

Shaping Youth’s 9-11/Osama Bin Laden Resource Roundup:

Deconstructing Headline News; Impact on Children

9/11 and Children: by Rutgers University; Kay E. Vandergrift

I find this one to be one of the most globally comprehensive and inclusive, with useful adjunct resources and quotes that convey holistic thinking. Her extensive links address a wide range of cultural issues with global context. Sections include: Vandergrift’s global children’s literature page, Islamic traditions/Muslim culture, deprivation/poverty & the dispossessed (biblio of picture books here) the culture of violence in picture books and in guns, games, and war. (extensive link list) Rutgers commemorates 9/11

9/11 What Should We Tell Our Children Georgetown University’s History News Network, & recent follow-up links that delve deeper in context: Teaching About 9/11

Children Now: Talking With Kids About the News Excellent specific talking tips on terrorism (complete with role play) and a solid roundup of web link resources on terrorism/tragedies of various kinds

Sourcewatch: The Path To 9/11: This Sourcewatch site is great for deconstructing ‘front organizations’ and figuring out who’s funding/creating media, from books to broadcast. (In this case, it’s the 9/11 docudrama mini-series produced by ABC/Disney)

Tools for Coping in a Post 9/11 World: Fabulous link round-up from multiple orgs (APA, NCCEV, Yale, etc.) on tense times, trauma, fear, anger, grief etc. on the Connect for Kids site.

9/11 As History: A multi-dimensional program, from tips and resources to lesson plans and student writing, from the Families & Work Institute

In The Name of God A celebration of the rebirth of cinema in Pakistan, this new film was brought to my attention by a dear, dear media friend, global social consciousness educator and Pakistani movie star Simi Raheal. I met fellow GWLN delegate Simi while representing the U.S. at the Women Leaders for the World conference and we’re now aligning some of our mutual media efforts to overlap where we can as agents of change. She’s an amazing woman, who dares to boldly tread on touchy turf, and this film is no exception. The movie addresses the complexity of living life as a Muslim post-9-11, often being pre-judged and feared, as part of a music storyline within the film. (needless to say, it makes an important point about how fundamentalist regimes don’t speak for the entirety of a nation’s people; I’m looking forward to seeing it debut someday in the U.S. rather than via trailer on YouTube!)

Alternatives to 9-11 by Michele Martin, at The Bamboo Project blog, who uses the brief Stuart Brown video/slideshow from American Public Radio’s Animals At Play which features a husky and a polar bear in a poignant lesson of faith, vulnerability, character and spirit…talk about ‘family values’ as the values of mankind…

How to Talk to Children About Terrorism: (31pp. pdf public service primer by PhD Lawrence Shapiro)

Mental Health America: Coping With Tragedy (Facts, stats, updates on impact of 9/11) Common responses and symptoms to war/uncertainty; PTSD, anxiety, etc.

Children and 9/11: Art Helping Kids Heal by National Geographic News

Classroom Curric-Exercises/Media Literacy & News:

Create Your Own Media Headline (How media is made/interactive)

Teach Kids News (Grades 2-6)

Rebooting The News (great links/roundup of SLJ edu tools too!)

The News Literacy Project (How to Know What to Believe–digital lit)

MIT/Reconstructing: A classroom exercise; reflections on humanity and media after tragedy (deconstructing media w/analysis of sound/news footage, etc.)

Talking With Kids About Tough Subjects (Before everyone else does)

World Affairs Council: Global classroom, 31pp curriculum in pdf: Teaching Media Literacy Through the Topic of Terrorism (middle/high school)

American Red Cross/Facing Fear: Free Downloadable Curriculum for K-12

PBS Teachers: Media Literacy Sites & Programs Great list of links, shows, topics, guides and more

Media Literacy Clearinghouse Frank Baker has links out the wazoo on multiple areas of specialization as well as allied orgs (see our blogroll sidebar)

How to Talk to Your Child About the News Simple overview/KidsHealth primer

Kids Health: Primer/How Kids Perceive the News

Media Literacy 101: How to Detect Fear-Mongering

Watching TV News: How to Be A Smarter Viewer

Our friends at MTVAct shared this short poignant film premiere from a youth point of view, created by filmmaker Andrew Jenks.

Andrew Jenks writes about the end of innocence and the atmosphere of the country, “My hope is that this short film results in time for personal reflection, then re-sparks an energy within my generation. Young people turned out in droves to elect President Obama for a reason. And in that spirit, it’s up to the millennials again to push their agenda forward, to unleash that bottled energy and showcase what we have archived in the last 10 years. Share the video and pay tribute to 9/11 by taking action below. Special thanks to Chris Mirigliani, Lewis Rapkin and Jonah Quickmire Pettigrew, all twentysomething professional filmmakers, for giving up their own time and energy to producing and editing this film.”

Visual Credits: Handshake photo via The Mogul Mom Memorial photo GCE Chicago


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