Man’s Quest to Honor 9/11 Victims Makes Headlines
Kevin Tuerff was on his way back to the United States from Europe on Sep. 11 of 2001. While on air his aircraft diverted to Gander, Newfoundland over fears of further terrorist attacks.
In a recent interview with PEOPLE, Tuerff said that it had taken him seven days to make his way back home, but even so many years later he is still moved by the kindness of those he met on that island. Tuerff at the time was the principal of his own Austin, Texas-based environmental communications firm.
On that day 7,000 travelers ended up in Gander, a town that has roughly 9,000 residents in the Canadian province. It was those inhabitants that moved quickly and opened up their community to welcome the travelers by offering them food, a roof over their head, and even clothes.
Moved by the kindness and compassion of the town’s inhabitants, Tuerff swiftly began to pay it forward once he arrived back in Texas. He started initiatives in his firm that would give his employees money and time. He also started doing random acts for the community to help honor the anniversary of 9/11. Quickly his efforts grew, and more participants wanted to join.
It is now two decades later and Tuerff is the leader of PayItForward911.org, a global initiative that is present in 46 states and six different countries.
For this year’s anniversary of 9/11, their efforts began on Sep. 1 when volunteers distributed coffee to strangers in Manhattan’s Union square. Other initiatives will extend to teachers, ill children, and entire communities.
In his interview, Tuerff said that it is time to start doing good for someone else and while this won’t solve everything, it will have a ripple effect.