Originally published in the Columbus Telegram
I’m going to jump on the bandwagon.
Leading up to the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we saw and heard many remembrances of that day two decades ago. Appropriately so.
But there was also a growing undercurrent to recognize and remember 9/12. Specifically, the spirit of unity and sense of purpose that existed on the day after the towers fell. The care for others and an interest in something bigger than ourselves. The spirit that drove people to join search efforts at Ground Zero, but also the spirit that drove people to check on their neighbors and to volunteer.
What didn’t exist was just as important as what did exist on that day. On Sept. 12, 2001, the nation didn’t care much about blue states or red states. We didn’t care much about what divided us because we were too focused on what united us.
New Yorker Patrick Dowdell lost his dad, a New York City firefighter, on 9/11. He was quoted in a Washington Post editorial last week and he put it this way: “That sense of community as a nation is something that I think is missing” today, he said. We need to recover the spirit we had in the weeks and months following 9/11 when “we came together as a country for the greater good. Not just for America to protect Americans, but also to protect the innocent lives of people in other countries.”
It seems safe to say we could use a little more of that today. And thus, I jump on the 9/12 bandwagon. This isn’t a political or partisan statement, quite the opposite. This is a call to seek what connects us instead of what divides us. Because both will always exist, and it becomes a question of which is worth seeking out.
I will further submit that there are few places better prepared to embrace that spirit than Greater Nebraska. The need for mutual support for and from neighbors goes all the way back to pioneers settling our state, so it’s safe to say it’s deeply rooted in the collective culture of Nebraskans.
Sunday I was honored to be part of the 20th anniversary rededication of the Higgins Memorial. Both the memorial itself and what it honors are great examples of what I consider the “9/12 spirit.” The Memorial was built by a combination of students, adult volunteers, corporate citizens and local government . . . all of whom had no self-interest in seeing that project come to fruition and yet they cared deeply about seeing it done.
I hope you found similar inspiration in the events and memories of the past weekend. I’d challenge all of us to translate that into a philosophical approach that seeks commonality instead of division. And just as important, I urge all of us to channel those feelings into a real day-to-day effort to invest our energy in something greater than ourselves.
Nebraska Community Foundation is lucky enough to see that spirit alive and well every day in small towns across our state. We work with hundreds of volunteers who are interested in the greater good and understand the moral imperative to give back to the places and people who give support to you. Central to this approach is the recognition that relationships are the foundation of change. By knowing and caring for our neighbors, we harness the essential tools for building a future where everyone has a place, everyone is valued and no one feels pushed to the margins.
Among our many assets, I believe this could be a significant competitive advantage for Greater Nebraska. We know many people would love to find a place where this definition of the “9/12 spirit” exists and we further know that it’s alive and well in our communities. In addition to embodying that spirit yourself, why not invite someone else to come experience a place where the “greater good” still means something?