“nine eleven”–those words alone bring up images of horror and humanity. When you say them, everyone knows what you mean. We remember the airplanes slamming into buildings, cries of terror, and the people who lost their lives that day. But, we also remember the brave people who risked their lives to save others. It is a day our nation will never forget.
It strikes me as strange that while we commemorate 9/11, we are recovery from another disaster. Again, we are faced with terrible images of suffering and wonderful acts of courage…only this time nature is the cause.
Our government could not protect us from the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001. Guiliani stepped up and other leaders went into action. Courageous individuals fought the terrorists on airplanes and rescued people in collapsed, burning buildings at their own peril. Many died that day–alot of them trying to save the lives of another. Four years after the tragedy the images are still so very painful. It is still uncomfortable watching them on tv.
In August, our government could not prevent nature’s fury. As we watched the suffering unfold there seemed to be a paralysis amongst government officials. The images were horrible and yet our leaders seemed to be waiting for someone else to do something. It was bureaucracy at it’s worse.
Those in New Orleans, Biloxi, and along the Gulf Coast did their best to save their fellow humans under the worst conditions. The anguish and despair that we saw on their faces burned itself deep in our souls just as it did on 9/11. People drowning in their homes, bodies floating on the street, people left without food or water on the side of a freeway as buses passed them by–was this really happening in America?
The American people joined in their suffering just as they did on 9/11. People became outraged that our government was not helping those people–our people. Then something happened. Offers of assistance poured in from all corners of our nation. Many people showed up in Louisiana and Mississippi to offer the help our officials seem incapable of. Many people made care packages to be delivered to various shelters. Children sold lemonade and donated the proceeds to the survivors. Police and Firefighters left their own states to support their breathren already carrying a heavy load. Doctors, nurses, and psychiatrists volunteered to aid the people. The state of Texas stepped up and opened their arms to the evacuees and got their school system ready in record time to take in all the children. Family members took in family members, old friends opened their doors to people they had not seen in years, and people offered their homes to complete strangers. One man used $10,000 of his own money to rent a truck and drive water to a town in Mississippi.
And there were others: from the National Guard troops returning home to Louisiana who found their homes destroyed but were ready lend their support to the prison inmate who could have escaped but stayed to help others to the rescue workers and police who sat in small boats hoping to hear voices of survivors to the small child who held the hand of an elderly woman in a wheel chair outside one of the shelters.
Even the rich and famous joined in…Senator Bill Frist went to Mississippi and New Orleans and offered his medical skills. Former Vice President Al Gore chartered planes to assist in the evacuation. Greg Norman lent his helicopter to the rescue effort. Peyton and Eli Manning loaded supplies onto airplanes for the hurricane torn region.
Aid and comfort came from all parts of the nation…and all walks of life.
While we remember 9/11, we can’t help but to think of Hurricane Katrina. Though the tragedies are different, there is something familiar between them. While our politicial leaders cannot keep us safe from calamity, we hope they will jump into action when it does strike. During 9/11, we saw leadership in action and we saw people helping people. In New Orleans and Mississippi, we saw ineptitude, bungling, and indifference from our officials, but the American people stepped forward and aided each other. It’s that special spirit that Americans have. And, it shines through in times of need.
[9/11 graphic courtesy of: http://www.tcdesign.net/solidarity_graphics.htm]