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January 5, 2002
Column #1062

Revival Of The American Spirit

     What's new about the United States in this New Year? The American Spirit has been revived in a most profound way.

     A Sept. 7-10 poll by Gallup found 55 percent ''dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States'' while only 43 percent were satisfied. By early December, 70 percent were satisfied and only 28 percent dissatisfied.

     Yet, objectively, the nation is in far worse shape than it was before 9/ll. We are in a full-fledged recession with millions more out of work. The budget surplus has disappeared. Bin Laden's terrorism has made Americans feel personally vulnerable to attack for the first time ever.

     Therefore, what accounts for the stunning revival of the American Spirit?

     ''The actions of our own fellow citizens in a catastrophic attack, were inspiring,'' says Dr. Richard Cizik, Vice President of the National Association of Evangelicals. ''Ordinary people acted with incredible courage and moral fortitude. Our national public servants, policemen and firemen,  crossed themselves, knelt in prayer, sucked up their gut and went into the face of fiery hell itself.''

     William Carey, the 18th Century British missionary to India, wrote:

Expect great things from God.
Attempt great things for God.

     That's what the passengers on Flight 93 did, as they rushed their hijackers over the Pennsylvania countryside. The Dec. 3 issue of Newsweek contains 10 pages of detail of their heroism. A group of men recited the 23rd Psalm, ''Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil...'' 

     Todd Beamer was heard on a phone saying, ''Are you guys ready? Lets roll.''

     What Americans rediscovered through the searing experience of 9/11 was that we can act with the highest degree of selflessness and service to others. For decades, America has almost seemed to worship the individual. Best-selling books had titles such as ''Looking Out For #1.'' 

     No one wrote a book about ''Looking Out for Others.''

     There has also been a nearly universal admiration for how President George Bush has led the nation and its armed forces with both resolution and spare verbal eloquence. He's been candid about how prayer has been a source of his strength. The same issue of Newsweek quotes him:

     ''Prayer has meant a lot to me. It meant a lot to me before; it means a heck of a lot now because there's a lot of people praying for me and I feel it. Truly.'' In meetings at the White House with survivors, he stuns his visitors by leading them in prayer.

     On the first bleak weekend after 9/ll, the Bushes went to a Methodist service where the prescribed reading was from Psalm 27. It opens:

''The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear...
Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear:
Though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.''

     Laura Bush refashioned their Christmas card to include the psalm.

     The events of 9/ll touched my family in an eerie way. My son John, who directs the staff of a Congressional committee, was meeting high in the Capitol Building with Congressional staff that morning as Flight 93 veered off its course to California and headed toward Washington.  Experts now think it was either aimed at the White House or the U.S. Capitol. Since the President was out of town, the Capitol seems the more likely target.

     On board Flight 93 one of the ringleaders of the rebellion was Jeremy Glick, ironically, brother of John's college roommate, Jonah Glick. Jeremy told his wife by phone that a vote was being taken, and asked, ''What do you think we should do?'' She replied, ''Go for it.''

     In the days afterward, Lisa Beamer, Todd's widow, found a folded piece of paper on his desk, which quoted President Theodore Roosevelt:

     ''The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena...who strives valiantly, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in worthy causes. Who at best, knows the triumph of great achievement and who, at worst, if he fails, fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.''

     I am personally so thankful Jeremy Glick and Todd Beamer were in the arena striving valiantly. They undoubtedly saved many lives, perhaps even that of my son, John.

Copyright 2001 Michael J. McManus.

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