COUNTDOWN TO 9-11-2011
Do you remember where you were on 9-11 ten years ago? We do, and we remember how we felt. We still feel a mixture of pain, pride and loyalty to our nation. How about you? Please share your story by going to our Blog page and telling us where you were and how you felt. We will highlight your…
The events of September 11, 2001, and its aftermath, hold many lessons. The 9/11 Commission (a U.S. Congressional inquiry into the causes of 9/11) found and documented many such lessons - focused on national security, public safety, the new age of terrorism, communication, information sharing and much more.
But, there were other types of lessons - in humanity, basic principles and values, and personal accountability and responsibility. Determine whether any of these are important lessons that you share or that you experienced.
Who does a child turn to when he or she feels danger and is afraid? He turns to a parent. Who does a mature and responsible adult turn to in times of immense crisis? Quite often to family and loved ones. But, who do you turn to when there is chaos and danger all around you, and your family and loved ones are no where near, your fearless and brave mother is afar, your heroic father is out of reach, and law enforcement is rendered useless? This is the reality that many of us faced on 9/11. Many of us survived this reality, but some did not.
On September 11, 2001, it was amazing to see many Americans turn to their faith - to God for help, for strength, and for comfort. Places of worship were packed with people - many of whom had not been to worship in a while. 9/11 was a definite reminder that we truly are a nation under God.
If anyone doubted that evil exists in the world, the events of 9/11 should have removed that doubt. On September 11, 2001, we witnessed a conscious and purposeful destruction of innocent and defenseless lives on a large scale. Such an act cannot be characterized or explained in any other terms. Of course there has always been evil in the world we live, as history proves. The events of 9/11 further confirm this.
Freedom is the cornerstone of the American way of life - a way of life that is by no means perfect. Freedom is at the heart of the U.S. constitution and is the very essence of the U.S. declaration of independence. On September 11, 2001, we all felt and witnessed this freedom threatened in a real and unexpected way. The driver behind much of the actions and measures that have been taken since 9/11 are largely designed to protect and preserve our freedom - as a nation, as a people, and as individuals. The United States is a freedom-loving nation and will defend its freedom above all else.
Prior to September 11, 2001, life in most quarters of the United States was typical and normal. But, a typical and normal day in America does not always reveal the heart and soul of this nation. The immediate and subsequent reaction to the tragic events on the morning of September 11, 2001 revealed who we truly are as a nation and for what we truly stand. This revelation was felt by each and everyone. It was seen between individuals, within families and social circles, within local communities, and certainly at a national level.
Few events and incidents often serve as a catalyst that unite and rally a whole nation - especially a nation as large as the United States. 9/11 is one such event. As observed on that fateful day, and subsequently thereafter, America came together and stood united. We stood united around a President, around a Mayor, around the firefighter community, around damaged businesses, and around broken families. And, because of this unity, we were strong - enough to make it through the most difficult times shortly after the events of 9/11.
America is a diverse nation, and increasingly so. Often, however, our diversity (of race, ethnicity, culture, and religion) has clouded subtle realities about what we have in common. The events of 9/11 highlighted many of the principles and values that majority of Americans share. These principles and values were a driving factor in bringing us together. Principles are the firmly held beliefs that shape our thinking and guide our conscious decisions to achieve our values. Whereas, values are our perceptions of the way things ought to be. Our principles, therefore, drive our values.
On 9/11 we observed a nation that exhibited many shared basic principles. We were humbled. We showed love for one another. We demonstrated our faith in God. We confirmed our respect for human life. We appreciated our liberty. And, we understood that certain actions and events bear consequences.
Because of these shared principles, we also exhibited certain shared values. We observed acts of compassion, kindness, consideration, dignity, mutual respect, tolerance, and responsibility. Within family circles, we also witnessed acts of hope and perseverance as many tried to stay strong and carry on.
When we talk of a leader, we often think of organizational leaders - such as the President, a Governor, a Mayor, or the Chief Executive of a large company. But, 9/11 proved that there are many more leaders at other levels of society. We found some of these leaders on United Airlines Flight 93, the airplane that crashed over Shanksville, Pennsylvania when some brave passengers, including Todd Beamer, took control to avert a fourth targeted crash. We know of leaders (mothers and fathers) who received the final farewell telephone call from their loved ones on the airplanes that subsequently crashed. They (the surviving spouses) had to inform and comfort their respective families - the children - of their loss.
We also found leaders in the World Trade Center, individuals, who took charge to rescue and lead people out of danger. We found leaders in each and every firefighter who went up the World Trade Center when everyone else was heading down. We found leaders in the law enforcement officers who tried to maintain nearly-impossible order while exhibiting compassion and concern.
Later, we found leaders in volunteers (steel workers, construction workers, and others) who temporarily left their families and responsibilities and traveled miles to New York City to perform hard physical labor to clear rubbles of steel, concrete, and dangerous debris.
When the next crisis looms, we hope more leaders among us will emerge.
Most people who choose to serve in public service do so with noble intentions and to the best of their abilities. However, governmental systems (policies, procedures, protocol, and positions of authority and power) can quickly undermine noble intentions and better judgment. 9/11 clearly demonstrates that the most severe consequence of the failure of government to perform the single and most important act of protecting its citizens at home is a lack of trust in all that government does. The 9/11 commission report sheds some light on this lesson.
Prior to the events of 9/11 many of us (Americans) believed that we were safe and secure here at home as a result of someone else, or other people, protecting us around the clock. Others, yet, believed that no one was out to harm us and that the world is an absolutely friendly place. With the events of 9/11, we have all come to realize that while the world is largely a friendly place, it has enough unfriendly people - evil people. This reality and lesson leads us to increase our awareness of our environment and of the need to be vigilant of danger in our local communities. This awareness also needs to be balanced with consideration, tolerance, and mutual respect of others around us - values that we all share.
America is a strong nation in part because we value ourselves as a community of families. We value ourselves as individuals belonging to a family. As the tragic events of 9/11 unfolded, we saw one another turning to our families to ensure their safety and well being. In the aftermath of 9/11, we observed one another leaning on family and loved ones for comfort, strength, and un-measurable support. The stronger we were within our respective families, the better and longer we were able to lend a hand and support someone else. This was the magic of neighbor helping neighbor and community helping community. 9/11 taught us that everyday is indeed a gift - that should be treasured and enjoyed with our loved ones.