UT Chancellor: Response to Hurricane Harvey is reminiscent of “compassion” and “courage” following Sept. 11 terrorist attacks

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Yesterday marked 16 years since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the day has become just as much about remembering the 2,996 people who died as it is about remembering those who rushed to help.

During the Greater Austin Crime Commission’s Sept. 11 Memorial on Monday, Adm. William H. McRaven, chancellor of the University of Texas System, reflected on how the tragedy of that morning displayed the true colors of the “American DNA.”

“The thing that I remember most about Sept. 11 is that fact it really brought us all together as a nation,” McRaven said. “It really showcased the courage and kindness and compassion and the remarkable work of our first responders. [Sept. 11] really reminded us what America is all about.”

“When we think about Sept. 11, we obviously think of the great tragedy of Sept. 11. But we also have to remember the great compassion, the great courage that came with that terrible day.”

Adm. William H. McRaven, chancellor of the University of Texas System

McRaven, speaking to an audience of more than 100 first responders, public safety officers, and local dignitaries, admitted he thought that American spirit had faded amid all the “rancor” in the nation’s capital. But then Hurricane Harvey hit, and while the tragedy was far-reaching, so to, McRaven said, was the passion of Americans to help each other in a time of disaster.

“You saw neighbor taking care of neighbor, irrespective of color, or religion or gender,” McRaven said. “People in Houston were pulling together in a way that was very similar to Sept. 11.”

McRaven said he knew in the wake of the terrorist attacks that no American’s life would be the same again. He said this was especially the case for first responders.

“When we think about Sept. 11, we obviously think of the great tragedy of Sept. 11,” McRaven said. “But we also have to remember the great compassion, the great courage that came with that terrible day.”

McRaven’s remarks stretched from the importance of living in a “nation of laws” to current world affairs and America’s relationship with North Korea, Russia, and Iran.

However, the former Navy SEAL admiral who helped coordinate SEAL Team 6’s mission to take down Osama Bin Laden, credited none of those countries as the biggest threat to the nation’s security. Rather, he gave that superlative to “pre-k through 12.”

“If we don’t educate our young men and women in a way that grows them to be great citizens of this country, that is the greatest national security threat we have,” McRaven said. “If we want to continue to be a super power, if we want to continue to be great, if we want to see the sort of response we had for Harvey and Sept. 11 then we need to make sure we continue to educate the youth of America.”

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Christopher Neely

Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and USA Today. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

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