The world was shocked by the horrific attacks against the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001. As a result, Americans united, reaching out to each other and becoming much more concerned about the well-being of others. But where is the care and concern today?
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In many ways, America changed after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Intelligence agencies improved, and now strive to prevent future breakdowns in communications. Significant measures were taken to create safer airlines, including bulletproof cockpit doors, armed pilots and overall higher security. The country took action to protect its infrastructure, including nuclear and chemical plants, water and electric systems, and bridges. Emergency response also improved.
On a personal level, Americans seemed to change after the attacks. Of course, the immediate reaction was one of sadness, shock and fear. For many, this soon became anger and a desire to seek retribution.
At the same time, it caused many to slow down, stop and ask themselves some bigger questions: “What if I had lost my family?”—“What if I was one of those who died?”—“What if they were my friends who lost their lives?”
These and many more questions caused an entire nation to stop in its tracks, and it gave each citizen an opportunity to reflect.
What was the effect?
American citizens began to reach out in a number of ways. Phoning distant relatives, reconciling broken relationships, rededicating themselves to family relationships, examining their beliefs in God, and turning to religion are a few of the many reactions.
Overall, people were warmer to each other—even to strangers on the street! Many also took notice of the many blessings in their lives and became more thankful for them.
After September 11, donations to charitable organizations skyrocketed. Thousands across the country lined up to give blood and, as one article put it, “Sept. 11's horror was answered with giving.” Donations hit half a billion dollars within two weeks of the tragedy. In the end, Americans gave over two billion dollars—the greatest flurry of donations to charities that the world has ever seen.
Yet sadly, the reaction—the need to give—only lasted a short time. It was a temporary emotional response. The outgoing concern for others, the reflection and the rededication did not last.
While charities did witness a great increase in giving, they also witnessed the other side of the coin. Shortly after the attacks, as life became normal again, charities saw a fall in donations to a mere trickle.
The everyday pressures of life again took center stage, and the need to look after one's own wants and needs gradually resurfaced. Most turned again to what was important—self!
One example that all will remember is the demand for the American flag right after the attacks of 9/11. Sales soared as people reacted emotionally, rushing out to buy flags to show that they cared. On September 12, 2001, Wal-Mart sold 88,000 flags, compared to only 6,400 that same day a year earlier.
The flag almost became a symbol of bonding—an opportunity for people to talk. It was also a sign that Americans stood together—for each other and for their country.
One need only take a brief look at American streets today and see the enormous difference in the number of flags flying as compared to shortly after 9/11. One newspaper commented on what has happened: “Although quite a few American flags continue to wave over houses and from cars, the patriotic symbolism that surged in the weeks after the terrorist attacks seems to be waning. Displays of patriotism—flags, blood donations, small memorials to those who died in the attacks—have gone down or been ignored” (St. Petersburg Times).
America continues to war against terrorism, but as many newspapers have reported, the flag is not flying anymore. At a time when the nation needs support, even the simple sign of the patriotic flag is almost nowhere to be seen.
It seems as if, after being shaken, people reached out and supported each other, but now most have slowly returned to “getting on with their lives”—focusing on themselves.
The reaction to 9/11 was understandable. It was a time of great shock, fear and mourning. Certainly, this tragedy was a “time to mourn” (Ecc. 3:4).
When there are times of trouble, we are told to stop and “consider” (7:14). It is during these times that we make changes in our lives, attitudes and perspectives. Christians are to spend their entire lives repenting—permanently changing!
The aftermath of 9/11 shows exactly what happens when human—carnal—nature is dominant. Cut off from God—left only with the fleshly nature—mankind cannot change (Jer. 13:23). What we saw in society collectively and in people individually was just a temporary response.
Every human being reacts emotionally; this is both natural and normal. But without God's Holy Spirit, man is cut off from Him, and any change founded on emotion will eventually turn back to selfishness.
God's way of life truly is a way of give. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is a God of love—completely selfless—continually showing an outgoing concern for others. Unlike the temporary response to September 11, with God's Holy Spirit, we can become like Him—and make permanent changes in our lives!