This September, the 8th Grade Class from Friends’ Academy in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts came to New York City on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. While they were here, they visited the 9/11 Tribute Museum and saw Come From Away, a Broadway musical based on a true story that takes place on 9/11 and is about the kindness of strangers shown to thousands of stranded airplane passengers in a small town in Newfoundland, Canada.
At the musical, they also learned about a program called Pay It Forward 9/11. It was started by Kevin Tuerff, one of the stranded passengers who was so inspired by the kindness he received there, that on the following September 11th, he gave each of his employees $100 to use to do nice things for strangers. The project, which is featured at the 9/11 Tribute Museum, has expanded since then and the students got to hear about how Come From Away does the same thing – they gave money to their cast, crew and visitors at the 9/11 Tribute Museum and asked them do nice things for strangers in New York City.
This theme of doing good things for others is something we focus on at Tribute as well. The first thing people see when they walk up the stairs to our gallery is a quote from the Dalai Lama: “Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.”
These things resonated with the students and they returned to Friends’ Academy feeling inspired by what they experienced in New York. So much so that this year their holiday gathering, Revels, which took place on December 20, was themed Ripples of Kindness, and printed at the very top of their program was that same quote from the Dalai Lama.
Putnam Murdock is a music teacher at Friends’ Academy. Mr. Murdock explains, “The theme came from the 8th graders’ trip. Came to NYC on 9/11. Saw Come from Away. Went to the Tribute Museum… Upon return they were excited about their experience and wanted to share their own stories. So I had them write little moments for me. I then realized we had to write a song from this.”
The students worked together and wrote lyrics for the song, set to the music of Empire State of Mind. It culminates with a call to arms, a challenge to their audience:
At the show’s end, the students shared with the audience the story of Pay It Forward 9/11 – how people received money to go and do nice things for strangers. Then they asked the audience to take a pledge. “We are here tonight to ask you to do the same: to spread acts of kindness that will ripple through our community. It does not have to be a large gesture, but any and every act of kindness will have a positive effect on somebody, and hopefully encourage them to pay it forward as well.”
This message of paying the kindness forward, “I know it resonates with the students,” Mr. Murdock said, “and I feel honored to put together a show that is student-generated.”
We at the 9/11 Tribute Museum also feel honored to have been a part of the inspiration, along with Come From Away, and Pay It Forward 9/11, to keep the kindness of strangers rippling further outward in the world. We want to offer our congratulations to Mr. Murdock and the 8th grade class of Friends’ Academy on a wonderful Revels program.