I thought about reposting an old post tonight, this eve of the 10th anniversary of 9/11/01. I thought about it a lot because of what I talked about, the importance of what happened then and how it continues to – or should continue to – affect our lives today. If you’re interested in reading that post, click here.
This past week has been a not-so-gentle reminder of those days following 9/11 ten long years ago. On Wednesday afternoon, record levels of rain assaulted this area of New York in a way not seen since the flood of 1972, which was the heaviest and fastest rainfall this area had seen in 100 years. The rain continued, flooding roadways, washing out highways, filling homes and businesses, and forcing thousands to evacuate their homes to find safety above the water level.
From the moment of the first rising river through today, the firefighters of Broome County have been on-duty at their stations. These men and women, volunteer and paid departments alike, have gone without the comfort of clean clothes, their own beds, and simple daily pleasures to dedicate their time, energy, money, and even sometimes, risk their lives for the people of the towns they care about.
They have helped families evacuate, rescued those who have refused to, pumped out basements, directed traffic, and assisted with clean-up. Eleven firemen from various departments near Rochester, NY, drove to assist in the recovery. They worked hard and helped the Chenango Fire Company accomplish an extraordinary amount of clean up in a very short amount of time.
The National Guard, New York State Troopers, New York State Fire, Cortland Fire– these all stationed to help and decontaminate vehicles and personnel as needed.
Local restaurants and grocery stores have donated food to feed the team of workers these last few days of living at the department. Meals have been brought daily to feed the workers as well as the varying number of evacuees who have sought housing in the fire station until they can either safely return to their homes or start the process of finding a new place to live because their own home has been condemned as a result of the flood.
The local communities less affected have risen to the occasion as well. After three people posted to their Facebook accounts that a need had arisen for clothing for a family of 9, people as far as South Carolina and Korea were in contact within the hour offering clothing, diapers, toys, toiletries, shoes, blankets, pillows–even tv’s and shelving. The community arose.
The community arose back then too, ten years ago, following the September 11th terrorist attacks. Firefighters and police officers from around the country flew to New York City to help with the search and rescue at Ground Zero. Thousands of people, communities, and organizations from around the world sent supplies, letters of encouragement, food, clothing, and prayers for the workers, the victims, and the victims’ families affected by the tragedy.
That is community.
We had it 10 years ago when our nation was attacked.
We had it 6 years ago when Hurricane Katrina left New Orleans stranded.
We have had it at other various isolated moments throughout the last few years as devastation has hit in more abstract areas of the country.
We have had it this past week.
The point is: We’ve had it.
While thankful for this uniting force that tragedy brings with it, I am left sobered that it takes such sorrowful events as these to remind the community of what is important; to call us all to look beyond our materialism, our self-centered lives to reach out to the unfortunate; to prod us to sacrifice time, energy, and money to give and get nothing in return.
I don’t speak of the fire fighters, the police officers, nor the emergency services workers. They have the right idea. I think more of the attitude I’ve seen around me these last few days: people dropping everything to find clothes for a family they don’t know; couples offering to buy clothes, food, anything that is needed to help another; kids picking out favorite toys to offer to a child they don’t know and will most-likely never meet. This, my friends, is community.
So, while we recover from this overwhelming flood and begin to put our lives back together, and while we pause to remember the events that took place 10 years ago and to honor the lives and sacrifices of those who were killed or who died in the service of their country that September 11th, let us walk away challenged to live every day in light of these tragedies with the reminder of what we’ve gone through together and with the resolve to stay united in the days to come.