George Mironis knows the power of remembering our nation’s history, and endeavors to pass it on to future generations through his volunteer work. George has been a Visitor Services volunteer at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum for over four years and has worked for the organization since 2012.
Though he survived the attacks, many of his friends and coworkers did not. He honors their memory by sharing his story with visitors when they ask where he was on 9/11. Some visitors get very emotional when he tells his story, as they connect his personal experience with the historical event that changed the course of American history. Read on to learn more about what George does and what inspires him to volunteer.
Describe your volunteer role.
As a volunteer, I proactively greet our visitors and answer questions. I let them know about the different programs and exhibitions that are available inside the Museum. My favorite place to volunteer is outside of the museum on the plaza, which features the two large reflecting pools that sit within the footprint of the former trade tower buildings. I educate them as they ask questions and direct them to the different exhibits. Given the sacredness of the site, I do ensure that visitors are being respectful of the memorial plaza and museum. As much as I can, I like to be assigned to place the birthday roses each day. This is where we place a white rose at a victim’s name to symbolize their birthday. It is interesting to me that there is a birthday each day of the year.
Volunteers in Visitor Services enhance the visitor experience by proactively greeting and answering questions. They inform visitors about the programs and exhibitions available inside the museum, and assist with directing visitor queues and pathways. This role is based in the museum and on the outdoor Memorial. I also attend and volunteer at many of the special events which happen throughout the year including the annual remembrance on September 11, the placing of flags in all of the names of the victims on July 4th, and fundraising events like the 5k run.
What does the 9/11 Memorial & Museum do?
The September 11 Memorial & Museum educates visitors on the events of September 11, 2001, and pays tribute to the almost 3,000 victims. The museum provides a way for visitors to connect to the victims and the event.
What inspires you to keep volunteering?
I worked in the south tower and was there on the day of the attacks. I lost 23 co-workers and 16 other friends that day. I worked for the museum as an employee for five years beginning in April of 2012. I have been volunteering now for an additional five a half years. I volunteer to honor the memory of the 39 people that I personally lost that day. I carry a little book with me everywhere I go and it lists each of their names and the location of their name on the memorial plaza. I will never forget the events of that day or the people. Volunteering, after having worked at the memorial, is part of who I am.
Any rewarding stories/experiences from your work?
There isn’t just one story or experience that stands out for me. Certainly visits from dignitaries and our military are special, but what is really rewarding for me are the individual interactions with an individual or family when they visit. It is the small moments of interaction that I enjoy the most. I enjoy helping them understand what they are seeing. I listen to them talk about their thoughts about the events and, as many visitors do, tell me what they were doing on September 11, 2001.
If visitors ask me about my experience on September 11, I do let them know about the 39 co-workers and friends that I lost. I do like providing a bit of comfort to a visitor if needed. I always have a pocket full of folded paper towels in case I see a visitor who could use something to wipe their tears. The museum is certainly an emotional place. I also have candies in my pocket and I give these out to children.
What are some lessons you have learned along the way?
The people I talk to when I volunteer are extremely compassionate and kind. God created this world and there is much more love than there is the hatred that caused the horrific events of September 11.
Are there any future partnerships, programs or events that you are excited about?
I enjoy each day I am at the museum and, even if I am not scheduled, I come to the museum for any special events and, at times, dignitary visits.
What would you like readers to learn from your story?
I’m a first-generation immigrant from Greece. I arrived in 1967 and became a citizen in 1972. I would have become a citizen sooner but, at that time, you were required to wait five years. I am proud to be an American. I have a beautiful family that supports my need to volunteer. My life was completely altered because of the events of September 11. Some people call me “The Treasure” and I embrace this as I know it is a reflection of my love for people and my desire to help. I volunteer to remember those that are no longer with us and I take pride in carrying out my duties.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like George? Find local volunteer opportunities.