Over two decades later, the 9/11 terrorist attacks and a nation's vow to never forget has become an enduring legacy across generations and communities.

The term "never forget" holds a different meaning to Derek Blackwell, 17, a senior at Lehi High School. The historic event predates Blackwell's generation, which has come to know the day and its events through second-hand memories and history books.

"We get taught a lot about the tragedy and all of the terrible events that happened and one thing that I've learned is all of the good that came from it and all of the people afterward — the rallying patriotism and support that everybody had for each other," Blackwell said.

Each year, communities nationwide with varying backgrounds and ideologies come together to join in the Sept.11 National Day of Service and Remembrance for an official day of service. A reported 35 million Americans participate in offering some form of charitable service on the anniversary and official day of service, according to 9/11 nonprofit MyGoodDeed.

The Lehi community held its annual 9/11 Day of Service with a wide variety of projects and partners on Saturday — joining thousands throughout the state doing similar service projects. At least 3,000 volunteers gathered for the Lehi projects alone. Among those projects was a letter-writing campaign, hosted by Lehi High School's student council where Blackwell serves as the vice president of service.

"The biggest impact that it has on me is I don't want it to take another tragic tragedy to get that sense of unity and that's why I'm so involved in service. We want to be able to have that sense of unity and have a sense of community without needing a tragedy to pull us together," he said.

The stacks of letters continued to grow during the event — with short thank you's, heartfelt notes filling the entire notecard or children's drawings in bright colors.

Gravel is dumped for volunteers to spread out as Lehi residents team up to perform service at the new soccer fields and city park on Saturday as part of the 9/11 Day of Service.
Gravel is dumped for volunteers to spread out as Lehi residents team up to perform service at the new soccer fields and city park on Saturday as part of the 9/11 Day of Service. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

"Dear First Responder, thank you for doing what you do! We almost lost our home to a wildfire in the Canyon Hills neighborhood a few years back. Lehi fire and police are literal heroes for us. Keep doing what you do. You are loved and appreciated," read one card signed by the Miners.

"Thank you for all the health," another read, with a child's drawing of an ambulance below.

Saturday's event began with an opening ceremony at the Hutching's Museum with former Utah Gov. Gary Herbert speaking along with Attorney General Sean Reyes. Adobe hosted the indoor service fair, where projects included the letter-writing campaign, stuffing bears for refugee children, stuffing backpacks, creating quilts for homeless youth in Salt Lake County, and making toy cars.

One volunteer who had just completed a quilt held it tight to her chest for a moment after folding it.

"I hope this keeps the young boy or woman who needs it on a cold night really warm," she said, before adding it to the growing stack.

Josh Swenson works with his kids Rose and Oliver as they join other Lehi residents in service as they work to install fencing, gravel and other jobs at the new soccer fields and city park on Saturday as part of the 9/11 Day of Service.
Josh Swenson works with his kids Rose and Oliver as they join other Lehi residents in service as they work to install fencing, gravel and other jobs at the new soccer fields and city park on Saturday as part of the 9/11 Day of Service. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The wide variety of projects was meant to encompass service across different levels of communities. Other service events included outdoor beautification projects at several parks and trails in Lehi.

"A lot of it we wanted to focus on people who need help in Utah and our local community to which, like the cars are going to, the quilts are going to. And then there's a few international groups, too, which has been really cool because we can get to see both sides of it. I've gotten emotional a few times today because it's just so cool to see everyone be happy to help and bring their whole family and their friends," said Abby Hughes, project coordinator at the Adobe event.

Many other communities across the state are participating in the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance. To find upcoming events near you, visit justserve.org or userve.utah.gov/911day.