By Josh Ortega
Personal editor

The bloodshed united the nation as it mourned the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon.

Last week, leaders of the 9/11 Memorial Interfaith Blood Drive attempted to unite people again with a blood drive that brought together the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community of Phoenix, the East Valley Jewish Community Center and the Chandler West Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ. of Latter-day Saints.

Since 2015, the interreligious group has held the drive as a unifying tool for the community despite doctrinal differences.

“We are all trying to help humanity in one way or another,” said Robin Finlinson of the Chandler West Stake. “And literally saving lives by donating blood is a great way to do that.”

The drive was among a number of activities organized under the umbrella of two groups, JustService and 9/11 Day, to encourage a day of service during the week leading up to 9/11 to honor those killed, injured or responded to the September 11 attacks.

The days of service were “designed to invite people to come together and rekindle the extraordinary spirit of unity and compassion that arose in the aftermath of the tragedy of 9/11,” said Jennifer Wheeler, spokeswoman for the LDS Church.

Finlinson, the blood drive coordinator for the Chandler West Stake, said the faith groups have worked together on similar events, but this year is one of the few times their three schedules have aligned.

“Whenever possible, we bring all three groups together,” Finlinson said.

Along with remembering the September 11 attacks, Finlinson said the project is one of his favorite traditions because it brings people of different faiths together and helps those in need. It also came at a time when there is a nationwide blood shortage.

“I love seeing that act of kindness amplified when people come together because more people are helped when we do things together,” Finlinson said.

Finlinson said she was a teacher at Mesa in 2001 and remembers, like many others, waking up that Tuesday morning and watching the events unfold live on television.

While attending a former roommate’s wedding in Washington, D.C., in December 2001, Finlinson said she traveled to New York and witnessed the destruction at the World Trade site firsthand. Center.

Finlinson held back tears as she recalled experiencing such a “sacred place” that held so much death and destruction and said she couldn’t even bear to take a picture.

“I wasn’t offended by anyone who did, but I felt like I just couldn’t because I knew what happened,” Finlinson said.

After retiring in 2005, Finlinson said she dedicated her life to being a mother to her two teenage boys, volunteering full time, and writing and photographing on the side.

Finlinson said she knows people of the Muslim faith who actively seek to help people, and that these blood drives help build a positive image of their reputation.

“It doesn’t matter what religious group or if they are believers if they are willing to donate their blood to help save that person in times of need,” Finlinson said.

Imam Ahmad Salman, who recently moved here from Puerto Rico, said the campaign gave organizers a chance “to raise awareness and at the same time save lives, regardless of color and creed”.

Salman was born in Pakistan but attended high school in Canada and said he remembered seeing the terrorist attacks unfold on television.

After 9/11, Salman said the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was the first Muslim community to launch a Muslims For Life campaign.

Working with the American Red Cross, the community has helped donate approximately 120,000 pints of blood across the country.

Salman said that although the events of 9/11 were committed in the name of Islam, the true teachings of the religion and the Quran point out that if someone kills a person to sow disorder in the country, it is as if he had killed all mankind.

The same passage, he says, also states that if someone saves a life, it is as if he had saved all mankind.

Salman said that although there are signs of hope all these years later, we still see “the impatience and violence” that we must eradicate, and events such as this blood drive enact the motto of his community “love for all, hate for no one”.

“We need these events to cultivate the understanding that while we may seem divided, we have much more in common,” Salman said.

Rabbi Michael Beyo, CEO of the East Valley Jewish Community Center, has lived in Arizona since 2015 and has been a rabbi for nearly 30 years.

Beyo said this partnership with the LDS Church, as well as other nonprofits and faith-based organizations, happened long before he arrived in Arizona and is part of the interfaith work they do regularly.

Beyo said he lived in Israel in September 2001 and remembers receiving a call from his father about the first reports of a small plane crashing into the Twin Towers.

Eventually, like many that day, he watched the second plane crash into the second tower on television and it shook him personally, given that he was standing inside the towers exactly a week before that day.

“If I had been there just a week later or if the terrorist had decided to do this a week earlier, I might not be here,” Beyo said.

Beyo became a US citizen about four years ago, but said at the time that it didn’t matter what nationality you identify with, especially since people from all walks of life died on that day- the.

“I think everyone felt that this was an attack on democracy, on peace, on peace-loving people,” Beyo said.

Beyo said he has a “strong belief” that most Americans want to keep together and uphold values ​​that won’t allow any extremists to tear us apart, and events like this remain a positive sign that we can working together despite our differences. .

“I think the post is a tool to be able to look beyond our differences and focus on what unites us,” Beyo said.

Chandler West Stake President Dan Shkapich led the stake for nearly three years and said it was a pleasure to continue this partnership with the other two faith groups.

“It is a great blessing for us to come together in different faiths to have a combined goal to help each other,” Shkapich said.

On September 11, 2001, Shkapich said he remembered working out in the fitness center at the hotel where his family was staying in Littleton, Colorado, because their house was due for work.

Shkapich said he watched the news that morning and recognized the “very dark” moment when our worlds changed.

“Since that time, it’s just been heartwarming and inspiring and uplifting to see how, not just America, but how the world is responding to terrorists,” Shkapich said.

Over the years, America has changed, but Shkapich said when we experience challenges in our personal lives and in the country as a whole, hard times and tough times unite us.

“We need to come together so we can heal, persevere and ultimately grow stronger,” Shkapich said. “So in an interesting way, these kinds of events really make us stronger and unite us more than ever.”

Shkapich said he enjoys coming together with other faiths to continue this tradition.

“When we have a common goal to love each other, to serve each other, to help each other. It unites us even though we may have different religious beliefs,” Shkapich said.