Meal packing event held on 9/11 anniversary focuses on service

PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- A Phoenix-area food bank is joining in one of the biggest 9/11 memorial events across the country.

The unique event is about giving back, and doing something positive in remembrance of 9/11. While many 9/11 memorial events are somber, this event at St. Mary's Food Bank aims to give back by packing food for those in need, with a smile on their faces.

The event began with a moment of silence, and then a musical tribute. The first annual 9/11 Arizona Meal Pack Day started out as a traditional, solemn memorial event.

"Witnessed the horrors of that day, and also stood there long enough in the aftermath of 9/11 to witness the miracles that came after 9/11," said former NYPD officer Daniel Rodriguez. He was at Ground Zero when the terrorist attack happened.

"They knew that we were there, 24-7, and they knew we weren't leaving," said Rodriguez.

Amongst the tragedy, Rodriguez remembers the kindness just as clearly.

"People would come from all over, bringing clothes and food," Rodriguez recounted.

Local first responders also came out to the food bank, recalling the chaos that erupted not just in New York City and Washington, D.C., but in the Valley as well.

"People that have friends back East, people that have friends at New York Fire were obviously calling," recounted Dwayne Bader, Scottsdale Fire Battalion Chief. "Phones didn't work. That type of thing back there because there were just so many people calling."

Soon after an emotional message of hope and prayer, the event turned into more of a celebration of giving back, turning 9/11 into a day of service.

According to a spokesperson for the food bank, more than 1,000 volunteers came out, which is a new record set for a single day. They were able to pack about 250,000 lbs of food for those in need.