Are you like me, never knowing what your emotions will be as we endure this anniversary every year? I never know if I’ll be on fire to take on the world or if I’ll need a day separated from the rest of humanity to deal with the deep rooted emotions that never truly go away.
This year has been a bit different because on top of the 9/11 annual anniversary, we also commemorated the ten year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on August 29. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been reflecting back on the pain, the suffering and the losses of life and property that the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama had to endure. Signature anniversary years tend to bring these types of events back to the forefront.
Ten years ago, our teams at the American Red Cross were deep in the trenches responding to Hurricane Katrina at mega-shelters all across the Metroplex, including the Dallas Convention Center and Reunion Arena. In a surreal moment that I’ll never forget, we held a press conference from our Disaster Command Center in Dallas, the same location where we ran a national call center for 9/11 relatives trying to find their loved ones, to inform the Katrina survivors how we were going to roll out our financial assistance program. It was September 11 so we started that press conference with a moment of silence for the victims of 9/11. The gravity of the disaster at hand didn’t allow us to grieve on that day. We had to stay focused on the more than 25,000 Katrina survivors in Dallas who desperately needed our help.
This year, as we did at the 10 year anniversary of 9/11, we spent a lot of time talking about all of the inspiring actions people took to help after Hurricane Katrina. Those who opened their hearts, wallets and homes or came to a shelter to sit with the kids. People held garage sales, concerts, kool-aid stands, quilting contents and more just to raise funds to give to the Red Cross so we could pass it to the families. It was reminiscent of 9/11 when the generosity of Americans far outweighed the hatred of a few. And that’s where I am focusing my heart this year, and I invite you to join me.
Reflect back on what you did 14 years ago, 10 years ago, or yesterday for a neighbor or friend. While we will never forget what the terrorists did on that horrible morning, or the humanitarian crisis left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, let’s also remember how Americans responded. Grace. Dignity. Power. On this anniversary day, I’ll be thinking of all of you who reached out to help another. #NeverForget