How 9/11 Inspired the Birth of Meetup.com


I’m a little late to post this story but I have a good excuse.  I’m now mom to a sweet baby girl named Alexis who was born over Labor Day weekend. That’s why I haven’t been tweeting, responding quickly to emails or writing many press releases lately.

This post is about another baby though.

Last week the country marked 10 years since the attacks on America on September 11th.

For me, the best antidote to the sadness and losses of this awful day came from being with people in my community. I was a community organizer (just like Obama!) and had a police picnic planned in the neighborhood I worked in. We had a potluck dinner and invited an officer to talk about neighborhood safety, drugs and crime. It was so healing to be together even though I didn’t know a lot of the people who attended.

Meetup is a web site that lets you find and meet people in your community who share your interests. Because of this web site I’ve been on hikes, gotten business advice, and looked for moms to hang out with. It gives you hope that there are good people who are talented and smart that you might otherwise never know in real life.

Speaking of babies, did you know that Meetup was a 9/11 baby? Co-founder Scott Heiferman wrote an email about its beginnings from Meetup headquarters in New York.

He said:

“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.

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.”

Today, there are over 10 million Meetuppers and over 100,000 Meetup Groups.

What a success story!

It’s inspiring to see how tragedy can motivate people to do extraordinary things. What other businesses and nonprofits got a start because of 9/11? If you have an example, please share your story in the comments.


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