INTRODUCTION

From Chicken Soup for the Soul of America

Introduction

Although the events of September 11, 2001, were stunning, shocking and horrifying, they also brought out the best in us as a nation and as a people. As the days passed, the stories began to emerge—countless stories of heroism, selfless service, renewed patriotism and deepened faith.

A nation that was only months before divided over a deeply contested election came together around a single purpose and a single cause. Americans of every age, race, religion and location stepped forward in some way to offer their physical labor as well as their goods and services at Ground Zero in New York City and Washington, D.C., as well as their money to scores of charities that sprung into immediate action. Record numbers donated their blood to the Red Cross. Celebrities and noncelebrities alike gave their time and talents to the numerous benefit concerts that were performed around the country. Communities around the country and the world sent cards, posters, flowers and teddy bears to the surviving police officers, firefighters, soldiers and civilians, and gave their love and emotional support to anyone who needed it.

Rescue workers labored past the point of exhaustion in a desperate attempt to save those trapped beneath the rubble. People drove across the country to deliver needed telephone equipment and stayed for weeks—working for free—to help make it operational. Volunteers cooked food, delivered water, manned supply depots, gave massages and offered counseling. Children sold everything from lemonade to their own toys to raise money for the victims’ families. Radio stations organized thousands of people into large human flags that were photographed and sent to the exhausted firefighters in New York. People dug out old flags and displayed them proudly in a fervor of impassioned patriotism and as a show of support for the members of our armed forces. Indeed, some people went as far as painting their whole houses red, white and blue. Thousands of cards and posters were produced by the schoolchildren of America and sent to the victims’ families. Hundreds of new songs were written and performed on Larry King Live and on NPR Radio. Hundreds of thousands of e-mails were sent and forwarded around the country and around the world as people attempted to share their experiences and to comfort their friends and family members. And candlelight vigils were held in every neighborhood and town square across our great land.

As we witnessed, heard and read about, these inspiring acts at the site of the attacks and in our own communities, schools and homes, heroism began to take on a deeper meaning. Patriotism became something more tangible to all of us. Reaching out to members of different faiths and ethnic backgrounds, caring for our neighbors and spending time with our families became more pressing priorities. What it meant to be an American living in a free country became more precious to us than ever before.

As these stories of heroism, compassion and service began to emerge, so did the hundreds of e-mails urging and encouraging us at Chicken Soup for the Soul to compile them into a book.

With the many stories that are now coming to light of victims placing a last phone call of love to their family members or spouses, of the many individuals who gave up their own lives to stay back and assist others, as well as the heroic efforts of rescue workers, I feel it would be a moving tribute to these individuals if these stories were collected and bound into a book in their honor.

Lori M., Orlando, FL

I am writing from Canada, knowing of the heavy hearts of all Americans. We, your neighbors to the north, are also observing the tribute and remembrance of those who lost their lives in the atrocious acts of September 11. Our hearts and prayers go out to those who grieve the loss of loved ones. I think that a compilation of stories from those so affected would help bring healing to the nation and the world.

Denise S., Canada

And so we have responded with this offering. Compiling and editing this book has been a difficult and challenging task. We wanted it to be the best book we had ever done, and we wanted to get it to people as quickly as possible. While this put tremendous pressure on all of us, it became a labor of love like no other book we had ever done. We hope we have succeeded in creating a book that will honor those whose lives were lost, comfort those who survived them, acknowledge those who stepped forward to help their fellow Americans and contribute to the healing of the enormous wound that was inflicted upon our national psyche.

In compiling this book we collected and read thousands of inspiring and poignant stories that were worthy of publication. There simply isn’t space to include all of them. We are also acutely aware that there are many thousands of other stories that didn’t surface in our research that also merit telling. We can only hope that we have achieved our goal of representing the broad range of experiences that deserve telling with the ones we have chosen.

Our intention was to create a collection that would indeed facilitate the healing of our nation—both individually and collectively. We know that this book will not necessarily stop you from shedding a tear; in fact, many stories may make you cry. But know that when you do, you will not be crying alone. We hope that when you put down this book you will be uplifted, encouraged, inspired and a little more aware that we really are all in this together—one country, indivisible, with a passion for liberty and justice for all as we pursue the fulfillment of our individual and collective dreams.

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