McDaniel College senior Lisa Starr remembers exactly where she was on Sept. 11, 2001 - sitting in her history class in her school, across the street from New York University hospital, 2.5 miles from what's now known as Ground Zero.
"It's something that's really impacted my life and changed my perspective on everything," Starr said while holding a paint roller covered in white paint Tuesday.
Despite the darkness associated with 9/11, some good has come out of it, she said. The tragedy tied people back to their country, she said, and back to their local communities.
"I'm a member of this community, and I need to participate," Starr said. "I think service is something you need to do because you're a part of this world."
Starr was one of a dozen students and staff from McDaniel College volunteering in the United Way of Central Maryland's Day of Action Tuesday. The group dedicated their time to painting a fence outside one of Target Community & Educational Services' alternative living units, which is a home where three of their clients with intellectual disabilities live independently with a community living manager.
"It's such a large fence, it takes a lot of manpower to get it done," said Meagan Elfert, Target's director of volunteers and interns.
Elfert said the fence was more than 30 yards long, too much for two or three volunteers to tackle in one sitting, so it was the perfect project for a large group to take part in. A clean-looking fence might not seem like an important project, she said, but Target takes pride in having its clients integrated with the wider community, and wants their properties to be a good reflection of their organization, she said.
Windy Deese, of the United Way of Central Maryland, said the fence painting project was one of 40 Day of Action sites going on across the state, with more than 400 volunteers taking part. Another group from Carroll County was also working at the nonprofit organization The Shepherd's Staff, organizing materials for the group's back to school campaign and coat distribution program, she said.
Deese said this is the second year of United Way coordinating Day of Action volunteer events in Central Maryland, and this was the first time they had hosted an event on 9/11.
Jen Freeman, another senior from McDaniel, said she enjoys volunteering and thought it would be a fun activity to participate in with some of her sorority sisters Tuesday. When she reflected on the fact that it was happening on the 11th anniversary of 9/11, she said it felt all the more meaningful.
"I think it's good that we're all working together on this kind of day," Freeman said. "It's good for us all to be working together - we need that."