Once the shock and horror subsided in the days immediately following the terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001, the first reaction for most Americans was, how can I help?
The heroic actions of first responders will never be forgotten. Millions of other Americans did what we could in smaller, less heroic but still meaningful ways.
There were 36,000 units of blood donated to the New York City blood center in the days immediately following the attack, even though it was clear early that there would be precious few survivors needing blood.
A study by the Foundation Center found that there was some $2.8 billion in private, charitable contributions given to efforts to help 9-11 victims and to assist with the recovery. There were 1,271 foundations, corporations and other institutional donors contributing $1.1 billion toward that cause.
There was a common sense of grief in our nation, which led to a common sense of purpose. We came together. Under attack, the petty political grievances that had divided us were placed in their proper perspective.
We are going to need to find that same sense of unity and purpose again in the days to come.
The attack we are dealing with today comes, not from evil men, but rather from historic and devastating forces of nature. Regardless of the source, millions of our fellow Americans have been placed in peril and have either needed or are going to need help.
And, those calls are being heard.
When the unending rains of Harvey brought historic flooding to Houston, emergency responders from our area rushed to the area to help. Charitable drives were organized to send water and other emergency provisions.
In the Houston area, it seemed like anyone who owned a boat was out after the flood rescuing those who had been stranded in their flooded homes.
The monetary damage cause by Harvey is going to be incredible. But, because of the efforts of so many volunteers, people were able to get to the shelters and lives were saved.
The lengthy and expensive cleanup for Harvey had just begun when Irma, the next hurricane in alphabetical order, came barreling through the Caribbean islands, straight toward Florida.
As people in Houston were dragging their soaked belongings into the front yard and tearing out the drywall of their homes in search of mold, people in Florida were putting plywood over their windows and heading north for safer ground.
Millions of more people are going to need our help.
By 2009, there was little remaining of the spirit and unity from 9-11. In an effort to rekindle it, Congress passed an act that year naming Sept. 11 as a “national day of service and remembrance.”
It was hoped that by getting people to join together in service projects in their own communities, we would regain a little bit of that sense of common purpose.
Those service projects were fine, but now our nation has a much bigger project. We have taken a horrific one-two punch, leaving major parts of our country devastated.
We are going to have to to come together again to help our fellow Americans.
Las Cruces Sun News, Sept. 11