As 2002 begins, we all continue to reel from the events of September 11 along with the domestic and foreign war on terrorism that it spawned.
One of the few positive aspects that I’ve seen come out of the tragedy of September 11 has been a dramatically increased recognition and appreciation of the firefighters, police, EMTs and countless other emergency workers. Listening to the media and some politicians, it seems that these folks appeared almost magically to perform heroic acts above and beyond what most of us consider “the line of duty.”
The unfortunate truth of the matter is that before September 11, most Americans were woefully unaware of the heroic role that these people fill every day in every city, town and village across the country. But short of seeing the occasional police, fire or ambulance run that screws up our commute, these men and women are not a blip on the nation’s radar screen.
It took the enormous scale of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. to raise our public level of consciousness about the importance of the job that our firefighters, police and other emergency workers do. Usually, they work in relative obscurity without 24-hour TV coverage.
In a society enamored with the status of celebrity, often for its own sake, this flirtation with appreciating people grounded in life’s realities is a good thing. Like many vocations in our country, it takes a crisis to realize what these people really do and how vital they are to the fundamental operation of things that are simply taken for granted.
A quick look at our field of manufacturing, reveals a similar lack of understanding and appreciation. We go to work every day making the things that make the economy work. Cars, planes, trains, computers and you name it, don’t exist without manufacturers who can add value to the collection of raw materials that comprise stuff.
Productivity increases from our sector have in many ways fueled the economic boom of the past 8 years. Has Wall Street ever invited a machinist to ring the opening bell?
It is my hope that as the new year begins, the current glow of appreciation for the heroes who live among us continues to be manifested. It would be a sad thing for this to become their only 15 minutes of fame. Rather, I wish that the change in attitude toward the doers, the heroes in our country, becomes permanent. It would be a way to salvage at least one positive outcome from a terrible event.