The Star-News - Aug. 30, 2002

Celebrating the American spirit


A gritty stoicism is evident as the South County makes ready to comemorate Sept. 11. We've been here before. The attacks of 9/11 are not new inasmuch as there was an attempt to intimidate the American people by terror and violence.

In the mid 18th century there was the French and Indian War where French and the Indians slaughtered English settlers. There was terror and violence on the frontier, massacres, scalpings and burnings. But the war was seminal to the development of a certain 22-year-old Major George Washington then serving in the English Army.

After the signing of the Declaration of Independence the signers and their families were hounded and their homes were burned.

In 1812 British troops burned our Capitol down.

In 1836, the Alamo fell and its Texian garrison, which included American volunteers, was massacred.

And then, in many people's living memory, there was the day of infamy, Dec. 7, 1941.

On Sept. 11, the messenger was new but the message was familiar to the American people.

On each of these occasions an enemy thought it could intimidate the American will. But every time the enemy turned out to be mistaken. The American people rallied and came back stronger. And each time it made us stronger as a people. Ed Reed, the man who has organized the remembrance concert to take place in National City on Wednesday reels off the dates and the atrocities easily. But, beyond remembering the fallen, he calls on us to recognize those who responded and to celebrate the American spirit.

Of course there were the policemen and the firemen who responded immediately without regard for their personal safety. They deserve a special recognition. But there were also people in the South County, a lot of different groups, who came together in recognition of the need to do something.

They felt the best thing would be to raise funds to send back east to make whatever's going on back there easier for those doing it. The police department, the fire department and other residents put on noon luncheons to raise money. The Lions Club of National City donated all the food so that 100 percent of the money raised was profit.

National City Methodists held a special event at the El Juan restaurant. The students at Sweetwater High School raised $87,000 on the streets just from hawking T-shirts. And all the money raised was taken back to New York City because the cost of flying the delegation of high school kids out there was raised separately in other ways.

So this is the American spirit we seek to celebrate on Sept. 11. This is the American vision: the American dream.

And, beyond solemn remembrance, we have to celebrate our solidarity, celebrate our strength, celebrate who we are, and our focus. As Ed Reed puts it, "We've been here before, as a people, and we've always survived. We've always become stronger. And that's not going to change."