In hard times, remember the lessons of Sept. 12
September 10, 2009
The U.S. Labor Department's latest employment report, released Sept. 4, places the jobless rate at 9.7 percent.
Sept. 3, the U.S. National Association of Realtors confirmed that home sales in the second quarter of 2009 are down 2.9 percent from 2008 levels, which had been the worst year for home sales in nearly a decade.
In April, the U.S. Education Department revealed that federal student-loan disbursements - the total amount borrowed by students and received by schools - in the 2008 to 2009 academic year grew 25 percent over the previous year, to 75.1 billion dollars.
The latest Current Population Survey by the U.S. Census Bureau places the number of people in America without health insurance at 46 million, despite the U.S. spending more on health care each year than any other nation.
The number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is set to roughly double this year, to 68,000, including about 21,000 new troops that have been ordered to deploy.
Additionally, 51 American troops died in Afghanistan in August, making it the bloodiest month for American forces there since the beginning of military operations in 2001.
If some media coverage is to be believed, these and other stresses have created an ever-widening chasm of frustration and anger among the American people.
Some journalists and media outlets have been making the argument that America and its people are on a destructive path from which there is no recovery.
Now, I give all due respect to my colleagues, but in this case, they are wrong.
To anyone who would question the resiliency of our nation, I would point to Sept. 12, 2001.
I remember the America of Sept. 12. That America had just lost more than 2,900 lives through a series of heinous, coordinated suicide attacks by al-Qaida the day before (Sept. 11, 2001).
There was uncertainty throughout the nation about the possibility of future attacks. As a Soldier stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., I was confronted with the reality of preparing for combat. For my Family, friends and the country, life had changed. It was, by all accounts, a dark time for our nation.
However, Sept. 12, 2001, I witnessed something that will always stay with me.
As I watched television, listened to the radio and combed through Web sites, I started to see, hear and feel a pattern of behavior emerging throughout the country. It was same pattern that I saw emerging from among my Family, friends, neighbors and fellow Soldiers.
I saw, heard and felt, that even in the depths of our pain, we stood united as one nation, as one people.
That is the lesson I learned Sept. 12.
I experienced first-hand the uniqueness of the American experiment. I saw how a country that consists of people from all over the world, of people that had differing opinions on almost everything, was of one mind in the face of tragedy. Yes, in the days to come, there would be debate, blame and conflict. But on that day, I knew the resiliency of America.
Looking back, I shouldn't have been so surprised. America has not been immune to hard times. However, throughout our nation's history of dark days, we have persevered. From the Revolutionary War that birthed our nation to today's Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, America has endured on the foundation of its governing principles.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln said, "We here highly resolve that the dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
Even when we were at the brink of dissolution as a nation, we were able to right our course and pull ourselves into a better future.
Economically, America is not unfamiliar with financial troubles. The stock market crash of 1929 decimated companies and individuals alike. Many Americans lost their life savings. The subsequent period of economic hardship now known as the Great Depression, lasted approximately 10 years and resulted in high unemployment, declining sales and a global economic downturn.
However, in the midst of these hard times, the nation did not break. With the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1933, and the advent of a variety of New Deal agencies (including the Civil Works Administration and the Public Works Administration), the country once again survived and prospered.
Simply put, perseverance is in America's DNA.
We have persevered in the face of war:
The Revolutionary War, The First Barbary War, The War of 1812, The Second Barbary War, The Mexican-American War, The Civil War, The Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, The Korean Conflict, Vietnam, Operation Urgent Fury, Operation Just Cause, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, just to name a few.
We have also endured through economic hardships:
There was the panic of 1819, the panic of 1907, the stock market crash of 1929, the Great Depression, the 1973 oil crisis, the United States savings and loan crisis, the stock market crash of 1987, the dot.com bubble burst, the panic of 2008, and the subprime mortgage crisis.
America has not only overcome its adversities, it has prospered in the face of them. And today, we enjoy a quality of life unmatched throughout history. Every day, we realize the dreams of those who came before.
On the evening of Sept. 11,2001, in an address to the nation, then-President George W. Bush said, "These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve."
He was right. Our nation did not break Sept. 11, 2001. As we have done before, Americans endured. We stood united.
For those of us who serve and support our armed forces, we have to continue to stand as united as our nation was on that day. We must hold fast to the values of our service and the oaths that we have sworn. Yes, there will be times when we disagree. There will be times when we grow frustrated and angry. However, our nation's past has shown us that it is possible for Americans to reshape their future for the better. It has taught us that we can create new chapters in our American story.
So eight years after that horrific day, let's remember the lesson taught to us by the lives of those 2,900.
Let's remember Sept. 12.