Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Friday, September 02, 2011

Assignment: Happy 9/11 Day Stories

“Baloney is my business.”  Army Publicist Lt. Colonel Bruce Derringer  (John Lithgow), Memphis Belle

Our department manager gave us a special assignment yesterday for our website for 9/11 week:  Find “happy” 9/11 Day stories.  Needless to say, we were not at all happy.  We’re supposed to find positive, upbeat stories about how our subjects’ lives have improved since 9/11.

The trouble, among the many obvious problems with this assignment, is that even the inspirational stories were already written nine and ten years ago, when 9/11 first happened.  That’s when employees started joining the military, volunteering for the local fire department or rescue squad, and doing work for organizations like the American Red Cross.

September 11th is a commemoration, like D-Day or Pearl Harbor Day, not a holiday.  There’s nothing “happy” about it.  September 11th, especially on a milestone anniversary like this one, should be remembered for what it was:  a tragedy in which many people lost their lives.

A movement is afoot, led by Obama, to forget all about that nasty, disagreeable day, and especially the nasty, disagreeable people who caused it.  Osama Bin Laden is dead, they tell us.  Al-Qaeda is history.  Let’s do some volunteer work, instead of remembering history.  Let’s perk things up a bit.  Put away the American flags and start redistributing some wealth.  That’s the way to honor the dead.

Still, one has to write something.  So here’s this writer’s essay on how our lives have improved since September 11, 2001:

Trying to find a positive in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks is a challenge in navigating sensitivities.  However, if there is a positive aspect, some way in which we’ve all improved, it’s in our preparedness for emergencies, particularly in the wake of 9/11.

Sometime after the events of 9/11, September was declared National Emergency Preparedness Month.  In our cafeteria, employees have access to various literature on preparing for any kind of emergency:  flood, fire, tornado, hurricane.  One pamphlet is an Emergency Supply List from FEMA, with a checklist for all the necessary items.

During 9/11, ten years ago, a number of our employees were on their way to meetings on Long Island and in New York City.  With the bridges and tunnels closed, they were marooned without supplies.  Thanks to the kindness of our New York employees, they made it through the overnight until they could get back home.

No one knows if and when to expect a terror attack.  But hurricanes and other violent storms do announce themselves, and with that September 11th awareness, people get their “Go” bags ready and make sure they have a supply of batteries, water, medications, gasoline in their vehicles, and other necessities in case they have to evacuate their area.

People have evacuation arrangement plans, too.  When they have to “go”, they know where they’re going to.   Technology is vastly improved, so that it’s easier to communicate with loved ones, and to make sheltering arrangements ahead of time.   People have maps of their areas and new GPS devices make it easier to get around detours, adding an additional security if the driver has to steer into “uncharted” territories, especially in an emergency when stress levels are higher.

Government authorities have been getting their acts together, too, since 9/11.  Hurricane Preparedness Conferences have been held in New Jersey since before 9/11 – a conference was held in our former Northeastern Regional Office two months after 9/11.  Since then, they’ve stepped up their efforts to improve emergency response, efforts that came in handy as Hurricane Irene approached the coast of southern New Jersey.

Finally, the ten years since 9/11 have given us a greater and undying appreciation for our law enforcement and emergency responders.  We have not forgotten the risks they took then and continue to take on behalf of public safety and security.   More people have also felt inspired to volunteer for these services, generously offering donations of time, money, and supplies.

Goodness triumphs when good people do everything they can to help.


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