There is nary a year in the 225-year history of the United States of America which hasn't been tinged by tragedy of some sort.
Year in and year out, some region of our vast country is inevitably plagued by flood, drought, earthquake, economic slowdown or other hardship. But typically these events are confined to a relatively small area, and the vast majority of us remember them with a fleeting thought during the holidays or perhaps a prayer. But that really is about it.
This year is different. Those in the Baby Boomer generation would be hard-pressed to recall a more trying, frightening year than 2001 has been.
As of Friday, the official count of persons killed, presumed dead or missing as the result of the events of Sept. 11 in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania was 3,187, according to The Associated Press. On the "Day of Infamy," 2,403 Americans died during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which until this year was the most devastating attack, in terms of loss of life, on U.S. soil by a foreign enemy.
Thousands of U.S. families face a holiday season with an empty seat at the table and an empty place in their hearts.
The Sept. 11 attacks ravaged not only life and landmarks, but a U.S. economy which had already been in recession since March. Since October 2000, when employment levels were at their most recent high, 2.6 million people in our country have lost their jobs. The unemployment rate is 5.7 percent, or about one out of every 20 people who would like to be working. Chances are you know someone who has lost his or her job, particularly if you have ties to the airline industry, in which 45,000 lost their jobs in November alone.
This year's average monthly unemployment rate will jump nearly an entire point over the average for 2000. We haven't seen that kind of quick negative turn in employment fortunes in at least a decade.
Are you still gainfully employed? If so, know that most industries in our economy are suffering major downturns in revenue, which, of course, pays the salaries of workers. Count yourself blessed that either you are in an industry that is relatively unaffected by the current recession, or that your employer has had the courage and heart to stick with you during tough times, because it's likely that his or her bottom line is taking some unexpected hits.
So this year, as we gather to spend the Christmas-New Year period with our loved ones, there may never have been a more appropriate moment in the lives of the Baby Boomer generation to stop and count our blessings. Do you have your spouse, your children and members of your extended family still with you? Give them a big hug, a big kiss and tell them you love them. And then say a silent prayer for the thousands of families who had their loved ones taken from them so suddenly, without a chance to say goodbye.
It's easy to get overwhelmed when our public and private worlds are in turmoil, but don't forget during this season of peace and joy to be thankful for what you do have.
Tom Mitsoff is a longtime daily newspaper editor and syndicated columnist.
His web address is http://www.tommitsoff.com.
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