I lost one of my best friends on 9/11. I remember it like it happened yesterday. I remember driving to hospitals all over the region and praying that Andrew would be in one of them. I remember going through all the possible stages of grief and despairing at the cruelty of a life cut so short. I remember crying for days on end. I remember the aftermath of destruction in the city and the fear that permeated in all of us. I remember thinking that the city would never recover or be the same again. But now, in the wake of Katrina, what I remember most about 9/11 is the overwhelming and selfless generosity of others. I remember the outpouring of support and charity from around the world. More than anything else, this is what served to reaffirm my faith in humanity.
And as always, it's the faithful charity of individuals that touches me the most. Why is it always the people with the least who always find it in their hearts to give the most? Whether it's their time, resources or money, America's charitable individuals will always be the true strength of our nation. The whole story of our last national crisis, 9/11, was courage--among the passersby, among the firemen, among those who walked down their stairs slowly to help a less able colleague, among those who fought their way past the flames in the Pentagon to get people out. And it gave us quite a sense of who we are as a people. It gave us a lot of renewed pride. I hope the aftermath of Katrina reveals as much about ourselves.
I understand that a critical assessment of how our nation copes with natural disasters will be absolutely necessary down the road. But I'm absolutely nauseated at the partisan politics and finger-pointing that's occuring now. Liberals blame Bush's cuts to the Army Corps of Engineers' budget, ignoring the fact that Clinton was also strongly adament in calling levee-building a "local problem." Conservatives point the mismanagement at the local level, ignoring the fact that FEMA clearly was unprepared to deal with the crisis. And you can't even fathom my anger at those who blame people in the Gulf for not evacuating from their homes. As my friend Mark says, this is as absurd as pointing the finger at rape victims. Absolutely disgusting. As usual, it's always easier to point the blame elsewhere rather than take responsibility for one's actions. I'm interested in things that are oriented to solving problems, and I'm extremely mistrustful of people who are providing analysis as a means to advance one political interest or another. It's one of the main reasons I stopped working in Washington.
I'm equally apalled by the people who advertise their good will or contributions. Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit expects anyone who donates to disaster relief to display their contribution on a website. It should be noted that he's not talking about random acts of kindness. He's talking about having people actually state the amount of cash that they've given.
Though I'm not a religious man by any means, I think he would be best served to remember Matthew 6. I summarize...
"Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret."
There are many ways we can all help, whether it's by offering housing to the displaced or donating to the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army. However, being a new father, I'm especially touched by Feed the Children. Also, for those of you in the parenting blogosphere, head over to my friends at Been There for a different way to help out. Today's WSJ reports that more than $400 million has already been collected but relief organizations say at least $1 billion will be needed. I never want to pressure people into giving but I'm hoping that we can all dig a little deeper to help out, not just monetarily but in any way possible. Sometimes, a bowl of soup and a hug are more valuable than a dollar.
Meanwhile, I can't stop reading the news or watching the coverage of Katrina. As my friend Laid-Off Dad says, "It's all so painfully repellent, yet I can't look away." But in keeping with the theme here, I'd like to point out one article that keeps resonating with me, about the courage of tribes. You'll understand when you read it.
Or at least I hope you will.