New Challenges

Immediately following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington D.C., Truckers News received several calls from truck drivers seeking information on how they could help. They wanted to know where they could transport supplies, volunteer their time, donate money or give blood.

The disaster areas were quickly inundated with a surplus of goods, volunteers flooded the streets, charity coffers were bursting at the seams and blood centers were overwhelmed with willing hearts wanting to help their fellow man. This outpouring of goodwill was unprecedented.

But now, as America tries to move beyond the horror of the worst terrorist attacks ever suffered by this country, we need to remind ourselves there are still plenty of things we can do to help strengthen this nation.

Truckers have been more than generous in donating their time to deliver goods to New York and Washington. Each driver made personal sacrifices in order to do so. They also donated money at truckstops and other locales, as well as sending funds in the mail. But there are many good charities not related to the terrorist attacks – like Toys for Tots and the Salvation Army to name just a couple – that may suffer this Christmas season because people sent much of what they normally give charities each year to Sept. 11 disaster funds.

Blood donations are another area where people waited in lines after Sept. 11 to roll up their sleeves and give to those wounded by the attacks. Sadly, there were far fewer injured survivors pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center and Pentagon than we had originally hoped there would be, and virtually none after the first few hours of each attack. But no matter how much was donated in the first few days following the terrorist attacks, we need to remember that blood supplies are perishable. Blood is a wonderful gift to give year-round. Many truckstops participate in blood drives such as NATSO’s annual Drive to Save Lives campaign.

There are other ways truckers can help in these troubled times, like promoting a greater cooperation with law enforcement agencies. Both truckers and enforcement officials are on the highways every day, and they each have difficult jobs to do. While truckers and authorities are often seen to be on opposing teams, they must now rely on each other to help prevent future terrorist attacks. Though the immediate threat seems to have passed, this is no time for complacency.

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Truckers are the eyes and ears of the nation’s highways, and they must accept an even greater leadership role as ambassadors of the open road and a free society. One way to accomplish this is by going the extra mile and doing the little behind-the-scenes things. Many truckers are active in great programs like Trucker Buddy International. This organization pairs truckers with schoolchildren to promote education and a greater understanding of the trucking industry.

Other trucking-related programs include No-Zone and the American Trucking Associations’ Share the Road, which educate the motoring public about highway safety. Being proactive in worthwhile programs is rewarding for both truckers and those who hear their messages.

Truckers have always turned out in force during times of crisis. But the events of the past few months have left us a different type of crisis. The cleanup of the destroyed and damaged buildings is progressing, but a strange uneasiness prevails. We all long for a return to how things were before Sept. 11. That’s not likely to happen for a long time, if ever.

More than ever, America needs true patriots like our nation’s truck drivers to again step up and move us forward. This fight against terrorism looks to be a long struggle, but it can be won. While this year’s holiday season may hold a certain sense of sadness for what we have lost, it can also mark a new beginning if we don’t forget the little things that can make big differences.

I honestly believe one day we will look back on this time of adversity as one of our country’s finest hours.