American Character

Edition: October 2001 - Vol 9 Number 10
Article#: 1066
Author: Repertoire

September 14, 2001 –The outpouring of emotion, support, love and resolution that followed the events of September 11th struck all of us. We believe it points to a reawakening of that elusive thing called ''American character.''

In the years, and even decades, prior to September 11th, some Americans were questioning whether there was such a thing as American character. It seemed as though pettiness and selfishness, which tend to dominate our airwaves, had replaced American character. It was more about OJ, politics and spin, than what was fair and just.

And in the wake of all the stirring remembrances of World War II, our generation seemed to pale in comparison. Many asked, ''Could we do the same thing? Could we stand up to the challenges that our parents faced? Could we reach into ourselves and find the inner strength and conviction to fight for what is right? Could we face evil head on, regardless of the pain associated with doing so?''

Let's face it: American self-confidence has gotten knocked about quite a bit in the past 30 years. We've been prone to questioning our instincts and getting caught up in what others see as right and wrong. Sure, some of that is healthy, but it takes a toll. As a result, the American mission of righteousness and goodness hasn't seemed quite as clear…as poignant.

Until now. The cowardice and brutality of these acts have rudely shaken us out of our self-hypnotic state. And as the dust settles, it is very clear that we as Americans like ourselves a lot more than we have for a long time. Not for any hatred or vengefulness we may feel, but, on the contrary, for the largeness of our souls, for our ability to mourn and to feel compassion for others, for our burning desire to do the right thing.

The examples could fill pages. The fire and police departments of NYC and DC rushing in to rescue victims, knowing full well they were risking, and in many cases, giving their own lives. Passengers like Thomas Burnett, Jeremy Glick and Mark Bingham on United flight #93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, who upon finding out about the World Trade Center attacks, and knowing they were about to die, took on the hijackers and brought the plane down in an empty field. Strangers sharing clothes, food, and housing. Supplies and volunteers in abundance. Candlelit vigils and packed religious services. An over flowing blood supply, given by donors from across the country. An attitude that proves we are strong and will remain strong.

It's clear our attackers didn't expect this, but that's a mistake they will have to deal with. Leonard Pitts, a Miami-based newspaper columnist, wrote, ''As Americans we will weep, as Americans we will mourn, and as Americans we will rise in defense of all that we cherish.'' That's what American character is all about. And it's back, stronger than ever.