"Where were you when the world stopped turning?" is the opening line and title of Alan Jackson's song recalling and remembering September 11th. The story goes that the singer/songwriter could not sleep shortly after the 9/11 attacks due to what had happened and this song get repeating in his head -- so he got up and penned it and with much encouragement recorded it for all to hear.
While the song asks us the most basic of all questions regarding that unforgettable day, the answer is easy as most of us remember exactly where we were on 9/11! The mere mention of the date -- September 11th -- takes many back to the exact moment we heard or saw the terrorists' attacks on the United States. Within an instant we can still recall the sights and images that flooded our television and computer screens in the hours and days that followed. Ten years have passed since that fateful day and still we can recall the scenes of planes flying into buildings, clouds of debris billowing in the streets, trapped people jumping to their deaths, newscasters not knowing how to respond, people running for their lives and so many of us looking on with stunned horror and awe on our faces. On that day, so many lives were lost and so many more lives were changed forever.
When thinking about 9/11, I try to honor those who lost their lives by remembering the feeling of pride in this country that occurred automatically and almost simultaneously afterwards in every American. It seemed in the days that followed the attacks people spoke softer and were kinder to one another. We went to houses of worship and held hands with strangers. Reports showed that even crime was down -- one might surmise that even those in America with evil or bad intentions suspended their activities as the horror of what happened affected every person who lived in and loved this country.
At that time, we were one as a nation....we were one in thought and response. We were willing to help each other...family, friends, neighbors and yes, even strangers.
I also learned that during this time some parents wrote to Mr. Rogers, the much loved television personality, asking for advice of what to tell their children in the midst of all this horror. Mr. Rogers told them to tell their children to watch the helpers. This was great advice for both adults and children. He told parents not to focus on the pain and horror, but to focus on those who were rescuing, healing, comforting and rebuilding. He suggested sharing those powerful images with their children.
What I remember most about 9/11 are the firefighters, both those from New York and those from around the country and world, that came to help. I recall seeing a piece on the NBC Evening News that detailed the number of New York fireman who died. The reporter asked, "What do you do when you have lost so many?" Then it showed many trucks and vehicles with license plates from various states and fireman from throughout the country getting out and going to work. They were a brotherhood and arriving to help.
Over the past ten years, many have said the people of the United States have lost this pride, this cohesiveness, this togetherness, this willingness to help others. The focus today seems to be on the dividedness in this great country. But I challenge that assumption because I see the spirit of 9/11 still in terms of help, pride and cohesiveness occurring on a daily basis through acts of philanthropy, charity and kindness.
I see it happen when a natural disaster happens like the one that occurred this year in Joplin, Missouri devastating an entire community. Americans stepped in to help by making financial donations and volunteering. Nonprofit organizations such as the American Red Cross (www.redcross.org), the Salvation Army (www.salvationarmy.org) and Feeding America (www.feedingamerica.org) immediately responded and through their efforts they made a difference!
I witness it when reading about acts of kindness such as a young girl being rescued by strangers after a windstorm destroyed the main stage at the Indiana State Fair (www.in.gov/statefair) in August. She was trapped under the debris and seven individuals including medical personnel worked to stabilize and get her out. While the youngster sustained a broken arm, she was most concerned about her tutu as it was what she was wearing and it had been destroyed. After her amazing rescue story was told, she received two more tutus! All of these strangers working to make a difference!
In January 2010, Haiti was devastated by the worst earthquake to strike that country. It is estimated that three million people were affected. It was another country and right after the holidays, but America and Americans stepped up. Leading the public charge were many celebrities who used their high profile status to raise money. The actor George Clooney organized and led the Hope for Haiti concert/telethon raising $1.3 billion! George Clooney said, "It's a big world out there, and we all have a lot of responsibility to help out people who can't help themselves". George along with fellow actors Leonardo Di Caprio, Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt each made a donation of $1 million to the relief efforts! They definitely made a difference!
Six years ago, we watched in horror as Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath destroyed the much beloved city of New Orleans and many other coastal communities. So many Americans and citizens of the world wanted to do something to help, but it appeared that the infrastructure at the time was not capable of directing or receiving that aid. Today, many of these communities are still working to rebuild and in need of assistance. Volunteers as well as donors continue to direct their time and dollars to this area in the hopes that each day will be better than the previous one due to their efforts.
These are just a few examples of how Americans do care and are willing to step up and step in to help others! And the good news is there is much you can do to honor and remember those who lost their lives on 9/11 and their families through giving of yourself. Here are five (5) recommendations and tips you can do that will Make A Difference (M.A.D.):
1. Take a moment or perhaps a couple of moments to remember what happened on this day 10 years ago; if you can't recall watch the videos online.
2. Talk to those in your community on 9/11 about what had happened; remember and recall how you treated people in the days that followed 9/11 and treat them that way on this day of remembrance!
3. Make a donation to one of the 9/11 Funds such as the 9/11 Memorial (www.911Memorial.org), Flight 93 Memorial (www.honorflight93.org) or the scholarships for children of 9/11 victims (www.familiesoffreedom.org).
4. Attend a service or watch the ceremony that will take place at Ground Zero.
5. Fly the American flag.
Bonus Tip: Stop by your neighborhood fire and police departments to say thank you for the work they do to protect your community!
By remembering, recalling and doing something meaningful, you will be honoring the nearly 3000 individuals killed, including the 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 police officers and 37 Port Authority police officers as well as the 6000 people that were injured and the hundreds of thousands of people impacted in this country and around the world. You will be Making A Difference (M.A.D)! What will you do to be M.A.D. on 9/11?
Follow Lisa M. Dietlin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lisadietlin