Tucked in the back corners of the Anatole Hotel on Saturday was an assembly line of almost 100 volunteer workers. They worked quietly in the early morning hours, just as a vibrant orange sun crested the Dallas skyline. Many people were decked out in their bright blue Mavs Care shirts, hair tied back with safety nets, face masks covering their somber — yet hopeful — expressions.

Among them stood Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall, along with new Mavs general manager and president of basketball operations, Nico Harrison. Joining him was his wife, Darlise, and oldest daughter, Nia, plus a plethora of other Mavericks employees, community partners and volunteers.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2021, exactly 20 years after the 9/11 tragedy, the Mavericks family came together to reflect, remember and help transform the anniversary into a day of worldwide service and unity.

All across the country, similar projects were also taking place simultaneously in recognition of the National Day of Service and Remembrance — also known as Patriot Day in America.

Ryan Walls, executive director of the nonprofit 9/11 Day, said the organization’s founders, many of whom were “9/11 family members,” wanted to find a way to remember their loved ones.

“They’d lost so much on that day,” he said. “A lot of Americans will recall this time after Sept. 11 when people seemed to come together. For a little bit of time, they forgot their differences, they focused more on what makes us human and what brings us together.”

To tip off the 2021-22 Mavs Care season, the Mavericks teamed up with longtime community partner Mark Thompson and his business Smith Thompson Home Security, who financially backed the event and helped pack thousands of meals for hungry folks in the region.

Rogers Healy, who owns the largest independent real estate brokerage in Texas, also volunteered at the event with his wife and fellow associates.

The goal of serving together on this day was to transform the anniversary of Sept. 11 into a day of unity worldwide and pay tribute to those who were killed and injured in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and also mirror the courageous work of countless rescue and recovery workers, firefighters, EMT, military and all who bravely rose to serve that day.

Everyone had a story to share Saturday, perhaps none as powerful as Harrison’s wife, Darlise. Twenty years ago, she worked as a TV producer in New York City when the Twin Towers were destroyed, and she lost a friend in the rubble. She still remembers crossing the Manhattan Bridge with thousands of fellow New Yorkers.

All these years later, the eerie and stunned silence of the city still reverberates through her soul.

For Darlise, it’s not just what happened on Sept. 11 that still sticks with her— but what happened on Sept. 12 — as she saw the community and people unify for the common good.

She stayed in New York City for many years after the attacks, becoming an award-winning producer for ABC News and the “106th & Park” show on BET, where she eventually met her husband after producing a feature on Alonzo Mourning.

Darlise said it was a no-brainer for her family to serve on Saturday morning with the Mavs Care team because giving back is the best way that she can honor her friend and the thousands of others who lost their lives.

“To whom much is given, much is required,” Darlise shared softly, reciting a scripture that has guided her through life ever since.

Her husband, Nico, shared a similar sentiment. In 2001, he was playing basketball overseas in Europe when the Twin Towers crumbled to the ground. He witnessed the tragedy from an international perspective and saw firsthand how the tragedy shifted the world’s landscape.

Nico and Darlise now look at the events through a new set of eyes. As parents to two pre-teen daughters, they hope to inspire their girls to amplify a message of hope and unity even in the face of devastating circumstances.

Edwards: ‘This is so important for us to do this as a Mavericks family’

Katie Edwards, Dallas Mavs SVP of external affairs, said the scene at the Anatole on Saturday morning was a powerful and memorable moment for her, especially since the pandemic has halted the ability for the Mavs family to serve together the last year and a half.

She said that service has always been in the Mavericks’ DNA and to give back on 9/11 was an important day. It was a chance to not only pack meals, but share stories from that fateful day with colleagues.

“Every year with the Mavericks, we are looking for ways that we can serve and give back, and of course, 9/11 is such an important day in our history,” Edwards said. “We want to have this time to honor the day and remember as we kick off the new season. To be able to do this together is such a symbol of who we are, and this is so important for us to do this as a Mavericks family.”

Two decades ago, Edwards was a newly minted college graduate and had landed a new job when the planes hit the towers. Now a wife and mother to two young children, she hopes to teach her children what happened that day as they grow older.

Even more, she wants to lead with a servant’s heart and remind them that even in the midst of utter heartbreak and tragedy, there is still beauty and kindness in the world. It’s through unity and togetherness that healing can take place.

“My daughter is in fourth grade, and she is just learning about this day in school,” Edwards shared. “She asked was I there and did I remember the day? It’s still something that lives on in our children, and it’s a day to remember who we are together and to also shine a light on the heroic efforts of our first responders.”

Healy explained that giving back to the North Texas community is one of the main reasons Rogers Healy and Associates Real Estate decided to ink a deal with the Mavs earlier this summer.

Back in 2001, Healy was a student at SMU when the World Trade Center was hit. Saturday he reflected on the memories of that day as he packed food for the community and also shared that giving back has always been the core mission of his family and company.

“We focus on a community-first approach here at The Rogers Healy Companies, and the Dallas Mavericks focus on community as a core principle, and together we will be able to empower the Dallas community in a stronger way.”

Meanwhile, Marshall, the vibrant and fearless leader of the Mavericks, also took time on Saturday to reflect on Sept. 11, 2001, and the 20 years ever since. As she packed lunches with other volunteers, her mind and heart wandered back to the thousands of lives lost that day and their families.

Marshall was a high-ranking executive at AT&T in 2001, based in San Francisco.

On her commute, Marshall got a phone call from her husband, Kenny. She was stuck in traffic on the Bay Bridge, which was typical at that time of day. He started yelling for her to get off at the first exit because a plane was headed to San Francisco. It had been reported that one of the San Francisco bridges (Bay Bridge or Golden Gate Bridge) or a high rise was a likely next target. Marshall worked in one of the tallest buildings on the 18th floor. (To read more about her story from Sept. 11, 2001, and owner Mark Cuban, click here).

“I prayed for our nation, aloud and on my knees throughout the day,” she said. “I prayed for wisdom for our President. I prayed for the people in the towers. People on the planes. I checked on the kids. I went home once they were home.”

She made a stop at her mother’s house to check on her. She also checked on a nephew, Cameron. Interestingly, Cameron, celebrated his 18th birthday on Sept. 11, 2001. Now, he’s 38 and has been a police officer in San Francisco for the last eight years. He had just started college at New Mexico State.

These stories are just a few of the dozens more shared Saturday morning as the Mavs Care team came together to observe the anniversary of the attacks with a charitable service day to honor the memories of those who died.

It was also a chance to pay special tribute to the many heroes who selflessly show us the best of who we are in the service of others and our country.

“We honor every life that was taken too soon,” wrote President Joe Biden in a proclamation on Saturday. “We honor the first responders — firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency workers, and service members — who answered the call of duty, and the brave civilians who rushed into action to save lives that day. Their courage embodies the American spirit and resilience, and their heroism continues to inspire new generations of Americans.”

ABOUT MAVS CARE: The Dallas Mavericks strive to be champions on the court and in the community. We are dedicated to building a stronger community through educational programs, health and wellness initiatives, environmental efforts, support for military veterans, and grants to nonprofit organizations. Through our community programs and the Mavs Foundation, we are changing lives in North Texas and have impacted thousands of children, families and communities. Learn more at Mavs.com/Community @MavsCare

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