Saturday, March 09, 2002

6 months later

Americans find what's important

        Come Monday, America's worst nightmare will be 6 months old.

        Now, it appears our dreams might be somewhat sweeter in 9-11's aftermath.

        Following September's tragedies, Americans have worked to make this a better nation.

        Efforts on everyone's behalf by the military and the government are as obvious as the deadly daily battle scenes in Afghanistan.

        At home, the events of 9-11 have become a teaching tool for individuals.

        They have helped us learn the importance of waving the flag.

        Reordering our priorities.

        And, praying.

Still flying

        Six months and the sale of 1.5 million flags later, Larry Schaller and employees of his family's 133-year-old National Flag Co. continue to fill back-orders for the Stars and Stripes.

        He realizes some customers may be sunshine patriots. Flying the flag for them is a fad. This season's line-dancing.

        But, for the vast majority of flag-shoppers at his West End plant, “patriotism was always there. Unfortunately, it took something of this magnitude to bring it out.”

        And change lives.

        Larry's customers tell him that after 9-11: “There are no more guarantees.”

        They say this calmly. Not out of panic.

        “People don't have a sense of urgency,” he said. “They have a sense of "Hey, that could have been me, could have been my city.' So, they are taking time to do what they feel is important in their life.”

Spiritual matters

        A friend of the Right Rev. Herbert Thompson Jr., bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio, can say: That was my husband. That was my city.

        “I've known her since I was 8 years old. I married her and her husband in Brooklyn, right after I graduated from the seminary,” the bishop told me Thursday afternoon.

        “Just this morning she called me. They found her husband's body in what's left of the World Trade Center.”

        Bishop Thompson spoke of his friend's great faith. And how it's helping her — and can help anyone — cope with a sad, senseless loss.

        “Reaching for God helps us know we are not alone. He is with us. And, we recognize we are connected to one another.

        “Martin Luther King Jr. said it better than anyone: "We are inextricably bound together in a great network of humanity.'”

        Bishop Thompson sees outward signs of renewed faith. In church: “Attendance since 9-11 is up across the diocese.” On the street: “"God Bless America' on signs in front of stores is a cry for God to bless our nation and a call for thanksgiving.”

        In conversations, he has uncovered a renewed love of family.

        “I've heard stockbrokers and Wall Street investment bankers say, "I used to work 14 hours a day. Not anymore. My family is more important to me now.'”

        What the bishop has heard echoes in the results of a recent nationwide survey. A Consumer Federation of America/Bank of America poll found consumers in a serious mood after 9-11. Americans want to save money, pay off debt and buy fewer luxury items.

        People may be realizing they don't really need expensive toys. That goes with not needing to work 14-hour days.

        Instead of long hours at the office and an occasional glance at framed photos of loved ones on the desk, workers are getting smart.

        They're leaving work after eight hours to be with the people in those photos. They've discovered that going home is one of life's true luxuries.

        With the pain and suffering linked to 9-11, it feels overly optimistic to say something good has come from this nightmare.

        But it has.

       Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; e-mail


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