Sept. 11, 2001. In an instant, our sense of invulnerability was gone. An enemy attack here at home, only rivaled by Pearl Harbor 60 years before. Nearly 3,000 lives were lost, each one linked to a family, a home, a good life.
Americans have an uncanny ability to turn grief into motivation. We took a heavy blow on that day, but it was nowhere near a knockout. Why? Because of our American spirit. It is impossible to quantify or calculate or defeat.
Our ancestors had it when they came here seeking a new land of opportunity. Our forefathers fought for it and scribed it between the lines of the Declaration of Independence. The early pioneers carried it with them across wild plains and jagged mountains. The Civil War forced us to look ourselves in the eye and give everyone the right to claim it. The best and brightest forged a future of creativity and industry, inspired by it. The greatest generation had it in spades through the wars of the early 20th century. And we could go on and on.
Only 14 years separate us from that fateful day. 5,113 days. And every day, we’ve relied on our American spirit in one form or another.
For our military community, the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks meant 13 years of war. More than 6,000 brave Americans lost their lives in a combat zone while more than 52,000 have been wounded in action. Yet the American spirit persists. It’s with the soldier halfway across the world as he focuses on his mission. It’s with the family waiting for mom to come home safely from deployment. It keeps a wounded hero company in his most difficult hours. It spurs an entire nation to patriotism and pride in those who sacrifice so much for our freedom. It is the backbone of who we are.
Whether it’s defined as tenacity, gumption, chutzpah, initiative or plain old orneriness, our American spirit leads us forward. Deep within us is the desire to rise up and reject an act of hatred meant to crush us.
It is this passion that is the force behind movements like the 9/11 Day, the largest annual day of charitable engagement in the United States. Each year more than 40 million Americans observe September 11 by performing good deeds that help others.
How will you observe Sept. 11? Pause for a moment to reflect on that day, not so long ago. And never forget those fellow Americans and their families who paid a terrible price. Then, make a difference. Volunteer. Give back. There is no better way to honor those whose memory will stay with us forever.
At Operation Homefront, thousands of military families come to us to help them get through tough times so they can move forward to a stable and more secure future. We couldn’t do it without help from our generous donors. You can give too, and join the national effort to turn tragedy into an opportunity to shine.