In the midst of the disaster along the coast, let us pause now to remember what happened four years ago today when we were blindsided by a heartless enemy. We were attacked that day by terrorists willing to take the lives of innocent people to advance their cause, but that day we also saw what sets us apart from such an enemy. We saw Americans who were willing to risk and, in many cases, give their lives to save the innocent.
That is the part that we must tell our children, because that is who we are and what we want them to be.
The brave firemen and policemen of New York, the passengers who gave their lives to force down hijacked Flight 93 before it could be crashed into the U.S. Capitol, and so many others showed us that day what true heroism is. Led by a decisive mayor, New York rescue teams saved countless lives as the untested young president found just the right words to rally the nation.
This time it did not happen that way. Local officials all but panicked. Officials at the highest level were tongue-tied, full of excuses but unable to find the words to give the nation comfort or confidence. But as the government fumbled, the American people did not. Charities appeared from nowhere. People opened their hearts, homes, their schools. `Bring them on,' went out the cry from Texas to Utah.
No, these poor people in shelters are not better off than they were off back home, but they will live to see a better day. The government dropped the ball last week, but the good and great American people picked it up, as they always do, thank God.
CBS News is beginning a special effort to help the hundreds of children separated from their families by Hurricane Katrina. Here are two of the missing: Desiree Gillam, who is 18 years old, from New Orleans. She is missing, with her twin sister Dellare Gillam. If you recognize either of these children, call 1 (800) THE-LOST or log on to missingkids.com.
By Bob Schieffer