Opening my emails generally provides itself with a few interesting things, new friends and the opportunity to cull my email subscriptions.

When I opened my email this morning, this was all the same and there was an email from Meetup.com with the subject line “9/11 & Us”. As the 10 year anniversary of a day that changed the world forever – and mostly in not so good ways – there are a lot of people writing about the event and some not so nice people using it to tie anything to their brand. So I take the 9/11 phrase with a grain of salt. However, in this instance, the subject line wasn’t full of marketing slang, trying to trigger my senses into opening and following a call to action, but instead a blunt: 911 & Us.

So I opened the email to see what Meetup.com had to say and I’m glad I did. What was inside was an email from the founder, Scott Heiferman, explaining how his experience living near the towers and of community during 9/11 spurred him to begin Meetup.com. It’s inspiring and honest and shows that good things can come from horrible experiences and people do really care about community – on or offline.

Meetuppers,

I don’t write to our whole community often, but this week is
special because it’s the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and many
people don’t know that Meetup is a 9/11 baby.

Let me tell you the Meetup story. I was living a couple miles
from the Twin Towers, and I was the kind of person who thought
local community doesn’t matter much if we’ve got the internet
and tv. The only time I thought about my neighbors was when I
hoped they wouldn’t bother me.

When the towers fell, I found myself talking to more neighbors
in the days after 9/11 than ever before. People said hello to
neighbors (next-door and across the city) who they’d normally
ignore. People were looking after each other, helping each
other, and meeting up with each other. You know, being
neighborly.

A lot of people were thinking that maybe 9/11 could bring
people together in a lasting way. So the idea for Meetup was
born: Could we use the internet to get off the internet — and
grow local communities?

We didn’t know if it would work. Most people thought it was a
crazy idea — especially because terrorism is designed to make
people distrust one another.

A small team came together, and we launched Meetup 9 months
after 9/11.

Today, almost 10 years and 10 million Meetuppers later, it’s
working. Every day, thousands of Meetups happen. Moms Meetups,
Small Business Meetups, Fitness Meetups… a wild variety of
100,000 Meetup Groups with not much in common — except one
thing.

Every Meetup starts with people simply saying hello to
neighbors. And what often happens next is still amazing to me.
They grow businesses and bands together, they teach and
motivate each other, they babysit each other’s kids and find
other ways to work together. They have fun and find solace
together. They make friends and form powerful community. It’s
powerful stuff.

It’s a wonderful revolution in local community, and it’s thanks
to everyone who shows up.

Meetups aren’t about 9/11, but they may not be happening if it
weren’t for 9/11.

9/11 didn’t make us too scared to go outside or talk to
strangers. 9/11 didn’t rip us apart. No, we’re building new
community together!!!!

The towers fell, but we rise up. And we’re just getting started
with these Meetups.

Scott Heiferman (on behalf of 80 people at Meetup HQ)
Co-Founder & CEO, Meetup
New York City
September 2011