Bittersweet Day For Brother Of 9/11 Victim

Originally published on May 2, 2011 1:21 pm
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MICHEL MARTIN: You may have heard this last night and this morning: many people celebrated at Ground Zero in New York City, singing the "Star-Spangled Banner."

(Soundbite of song, "Star-Spangled Banner" )

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (singing) Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave?

MARTIN: Many of those celebrating say that they had lived much of their lives under the spectre of the attacks on 9/11. But we want to hear now from those who suffered directly, those who lost loved ones nearly 10 years ago. Jay Winuk's brother Glenn was killed when the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. Jay is cofounder of My Good Deed. That's a 9/11 advocacy group that initiated the push to make September 11th a national day of service and remembrance. And he joins us on the phone from Mahopac, New York.

Jay Winuk, thank you so much for joining us on what must be a very emotional day for you.

JAY WINUK: Hi, Michel. Thank you for having me. Yeah, it truly is a - well, it's a bittersweet day. It's a bittersweet day.

MARTIN: Why bitter and why sweet? And, first, may I say, and I should've started by saying I'm so sorry for your loss.

WINUK: Well, I appreciate that. It's hard to believe, not just for the 9/11 families, but I think for everybody that we're approaching the 10th anniversary, isn't it? It's bittersweet because, you know, of course, I'm very gratified that justice has been achieved - at least in the case of, you know, this horrific terrorist. But it is yet another reminder of the loss of so much life. So the - it's hard to be elated when so much death and destruction is linked to this news. And - but it is what it is, right?

MARTIN: Does it - you know, the word closure has become, you know, a word that many people commonly use. And I don't even know if that exists. But, you know, one is reminded that the death of Osama bin Laden doesn't bring your brother back. But I do want to ask whether there is any sense of peace that comes from the sense that he - at least he himself cannot hurt anyone else.

WINUK: You know, my first reaction last night when I saw the news was one of relief, you know. I had always been optimistic that bin Laden would be captured or killed. It took longer than I think any of us anticipated. But nevertheless, I felt that eventually, he would be brought to justice. So I was relieved and gratified about that. And, yes, you know, I feel relieved that he, at least, can't be responsible anymore for such tragedy to other people.

MARTIN: The president said last night that justice has been served. But do you feel so? I mean, there are still some who would like to see - who would have liked to have seen him brought to trial, for example, in the manner of, for example, the Nuremberg trials, where there was at least a sense of the public had a chance to hear from this person and hear him brought to account by the rest of the world in a public forum. Do you have any feeling of regret on that score?

WINUK: I don't know if it's regret. But I do share that sentiment. I would have liked to see him stand trial before the eyes of the world and brought to justice in that way, and I'm sure that he would have been. But I realize, you know, this has always been an option, that he would be killed, you know, when found. And, you know, this is the world of terrorism now. And in the crazy kind of world that we live in and the difficult times that we live in - so, it is what it is. But, yeah, I guess I would've liked to have seen him stand trial for what he had done.

MARTIN: And, finally, Jay, may I ask, how would you wish us to think about 9/11 going forward? I mean, there was still this open wound in the sense that the person who was responsible for this had not been brought to account. And now that he has - but going forward, I know it's very new. But would you give us some thoughts about how you would like us to continue to think about 9/11 and those whom we lost on that day?

WINUK: Well, sure. You know, we advocated for and succeeded in 9/11 becoming a national day of service and remembrance. The U.S. Congress was very much behind that, and President Obama signed that into law in 2009 so that it is - it's federally designated as a day of service and remembrance. And that's important, because we engage in good deeds and charitable service and acts of volunteerism in tribute to all of those who were lost and those who rose in service.

As the president said last night, you know, this notion of the brotherhood and focusing more on our similarities than our differences in the aftermath of 9/11 was a very important phenomenon and too valuable to waste. So we encourage everybody to engage in some acts of good deeds this 10th anniversary, when we hope this will be the largest day of service in the nation's history. Millions already participate in it and, you know, anybody who is looking for information can go to and find out more.

MARTIN: Jay Winuk is the cofounder of My Good Deed, a 9/11 advocacy group that he founded in memory of his brother, who was lost when the World Trade Center collapsed. And Jay Winuk joined us on the line from Mahopac, New York. Jay, thank you so much for joining us, and thank you. And, again, our condolences on the loss of your loved one.

WINUK: Thanks very much, Michel. I appreciate that. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.