Two weeks ago, I said, “We have always been at our best when things are the worst.”
These facts were clearly evident sixteen years ago.
I still remember walking the sacred ground near the World Trade Center in the aftermath of the tragedy there. Many images were burned into my mind but the one that endures is the memory of men and women in uniform – rescue workers and medical technicians – methodically moving through the destruction, sorting through mountains of debris.
It was as if the planes that struck the towers opened a window to our soul. Heroes emerged.
All they did is what they were called to do – and what they were called to do was often nothing more than their jobs. It was the extraordinary ordinariness of their efforts that was most compelling.
They had no grand designs or elaborate plans. The scope of their effort was the length of their arms. Their long-term plan extended no further than the nearest burden. Yet, in the process of simply doing what needed to be done, millions of pounds of concrete, metal, and glass, were moved – one piece at a time.
In the months that followed, seventy percent of all Americans made a contribution to the relief effort – a response unprecedented in world history. More than 60 percent of all Americans made a financial contribution to the relief effort. Many others volunteered time, gave blood, opened their homes, and contributed household items and supplies.
If we needed further proof of who we are, we got it last week in the response to Hurricane Harvey. We are already starting to see it again in response to Hurricane Irma.
More than 17,000 people were rescued during Hurricane Harvey in East Texas. Significantly, many of the rescuers were neighbors and volunteers who simply did what needed to be done. Since then, millions have been raised for the relief effort.
Hurricane Irma left some 6 million people in Florida without power. We saw the utility trucks coming to help – some from as far away as Indiana and Las Vegas – before the storm had even cleared the state.
It will take years to recover, but we will be there for them.
That’s who we are. That’s what we do.