The can-do spirit lives on

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Americans are doers. At no time has this been more evident than in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Even as many were trying to make sense of incidents that made no sense, they began asking themselves, What can I do to help?

Quickly, blood banks were flooded with potential donors who showed up, they said, because they wanted to do something but didn't know what else to do. New Yorkers opened their apartments and offices to those whose own were damaged or temporarily unreachable.

Those with websites turned them into helpful bulletin boards, carrying contact information on pertinent organizations, ranging from how to get specific information on the hijacked flights to where to report missing people.

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Companies and individuals set up funds for the victims' families, with some - such as the Dutch supermarket giant Ahold, which owns a number of chains in the US - offering to match donations dollar for dollar, up to $1 million.

As this situation continues, we still ask ourselves, What can I do to help? Maybe take time to lessen a child's fear. Or befriend someone of another faith or nationality.

Garden writer Felder Rushing, who was featured on these pages Aug. 8, wrote to suggest cleaning up and restoring affected community gardens in lower Manhattan, supplying bulbs, fertilizer, tools, flowers, herbs, vegetables, seeds, books, bags of mulch, or funds.

His motivation: "This ... is something positive we can do to bring a little beauty and self-sufficiency to a sad and angry world." That's a goal we can all appreciate and work toward as we determine where our help is most needed.

E-mail the Homefront at home@csps.com.

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