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Lester Holt spent last Thanksgiving with troops in Afghanistan.
Lester Holt spent last Thanksgiving with troops in Afghanistan. / NBC News

USA WEEKEND and NBC News join together for Make A Difference Day 2011.



Now through October, read inspirational messages from NBC anchors here and learn more about Make A Difference Day during NBC Nightly News.

Each year, USA WEEKEND's Make A Difference Day and Nightly News’ Making a Difference inspire millions to help others.

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If I allow myself to dwell on 9/11 for more than a few minutes, I tear up and become very emotional. Ten years later, it is still a raw wound.

This anniversary is a time to embrace that wound, to stop and reflect. It is also a time to remember the good that came from 9/11.

The day of the attacks, my imagination ran away with me. As a New Yorker, I feared there might be anarchy in the streets. I remember telling my wife to take a baseball bat to walk the dog.

I could not have been more wrong. In the days after the attacks, our differences melted away, in New York and across America. People became more willing to reach out and extend themselves.

I remember riding the subway in those first days afterward. In New York, it is perhaps an unwritten rule to not make eye contact on the subway.

But there was a man sitting next to me with a crumpled stack of posters for the missing.

I did something I had never done before and may never do again: I reached over and put my hand on a stranger’s shoulder.

I said: “You looking for someone? I’m sorry. Hang in there.”

There were watershed moments like that over and over. You witnessed people comforting each other.

There is no sugarcoating the events of 9/11. But those horrible days led to some of America’s proudest moments. If we could all recommit ourselves to looking out for one another just as we did in those dark days, we could ensure that part of 9/11’s legacy is that it made us all more compassionate and caring.

When people reach out, it reminds us that we can still have this incredible measure of control — maybe not to singlehandedly fix things but to make a small difference that can become something larger. Volunteering on Make A Difference Day is your chance to step up and be a part of the solution.

Lester Holt is anchor of NBC Nightly News weekend edition and co-host of NBC's Today weekend edition.

More In Make A Difference Day

Make A Difference Day, the largest national day of helping others, is sponsored annually by USA WEEKEND Magazine and its 800 carrier newspapers. Make A Difference Day takes place on the 4th Saturday in October each year.