Five Lessons in Resilience 9/11 Taught Us

Most of us remember the horror of watching two planes fly into the World Trade Center towers. I remember watching the second plane fly into the south tower. It was like watching a movie, but it was real and terrifying. Even after 20 years, I still feel a deep sorrow when I reflect on this day. The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, forever changed the course of history and left an indelible mark on the collective consciousness of the United States and the world. As we reflect on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, it’s essential to recognize the enduring lessons in resilience that emerged from this tragedy. While that fateful day will forever be associated with sorrow and loss, it also serves as a testament to the remarkable resilience of individuals, communities, and nations.

  1. Unity in the Face of Adversity – One of the most profound lessons of 9/11 is the incredible power of unity in the face of adversity. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, Americans from all walks of life came together, transcending differences in race, religion, and background. The tragedy brought out the best in humanity, as people reached out to help one another and offered unwavering support to those affected by the attacks.

This unity extended beyond American borders, with nations worldwide standing in solidarity with the United States. The world witnessed a global outpouring of sympathy and support, underscoring the importance of international cooperation during challenging times. Don’t we wish we could see past our differences again to raise each other up as equals, as people who need support and encouragement?

  • Resilience through Adaptation – The resilience displayed on 9/11 was not limited to individuals but extended to institutions and systems. The attacks prompted a reevaluation of security measures and the implementation of numerous changes to enhance preparedness. From airport security to intelligence agencies, the response to 9/11 was marked by a commitment to adapt and improve in the face of evolving threats.

Moreover, the attacks spurred innovations in emergency response and disaster preparedness, which have been instrumental in handling subsequent crises, such as natural disasters and public health emergencies. Adapting and learning from past experiences has become a hallmark of resilience. The financial services industry saw a significant adaptation. Watching all those paper transactions float through the air or become vaporized in the explosion and collapse of the towers forced banks and credit unions to move everything to a digital process (remember Check21?)

  • Emotional Resilience and Healing – The trauma of 9/11 took an emotional toll on countless individuals, families, and communities. However, it also demonstrated the power of emotional resilience and healing. Mental health support systems were strengthened, and countless individuals sought therapy and counseling to cope with the psychological impact of the attacks.

The emphasis on emotional resilience has become crucial to disaster preparedness and recovery efforts. It highlights the importance of acknowledging and addressing the emotional scars that can linger long after the physical damage has been repaired. In the credit union space, we can remember that even those of us who appear strong and invincible may harbor scars and anxiety. We must learn to treat and lead others with respect, humility, and care.

  • The Power of Community – In the wake of 9/11, communities nationwide rallied to support survivors and their families. The outpouring of generosity and compassion demonstrated the incredible power of community in times of crisis. Local organizations, religious institutions, and ordinary citizens came forward to provide aid, comfort, and a sense of belonging to those affected by the attacks.

This sense of community spirit not only helped individuals heal but also served as a reminder that we are stronger together. The lesson is that fostering strong communities and relationships is essential to resilience. Community is in the DNA of credit unions. A driving purpose of credit unions is to serve and support the underserved and marginalized members of our communities and fields of membership. Credit unions were created to serve its members, period. There is no conflict between serving shareholders and the customer; we only serve the customer (member.)

  • Never Forget but also Never Give In – While it’s crucial to remember the events of 9/11 and honor the lives lost, it’s equally vital to recognize the resilience that emerged from the tragedy. In the face of immense adversity, individuals, communities, and nations showed an unwavering determination to rebuild, adapt, and heal. The resilience born from 9/11 reminds us that even in our darkest moments, we can rise above and rebuild stronger than before.

Isn’t this a lesson for our credit union, too? The road to success and sustainability is fraught with adversity, tragedy, and loss. As leaders in this purpose-driven movement, we must use this same unwavering determination to adapt, innovate, and, yes, even heal.

The lessons in resilience that 9/11 taught us are as relevant today as they were 20 years ago. They remind us that unity, adaptation, emotional well-being, community support, and an indomitable spirit are essential to resilience in adversity. As we commemorate this solemn anniversary, let us remember the tragedy and celebrate the enduring human spirit that emerged from it, inspiring us to face future challenges with hope and resilience. We owe this effort to our members, staff, and community.


Rich Jones is the Founder/Principal of Leading2Leadership LLC. Before starting his strategic planning agency, he spent over 20 years in leadership roles in the financial services sector. Before becoming an executive in the financial services sector, Rich was an entrepreneur, building and selling two businesses and working for early-stage start-up companies in executive roles in marketing, business development, and seeking investment partners. With more than three decades of experience, he brings innovative thought to companies and executives. Rich published “Leading2Leadership, a Situational Primer to Leadership Excellence.” The book is available on and was designed to be used as a book study for leadership development programs; it breaks leadership skills into manageable situations for discussion and reflection. Rich works with credit unions, CUSOs, and vendors, designing digital, data, culture, marketing, and branding transformation strategies. In 2014, Chosen as a Credit Union Rock Star by CU Magazine, and in 2018, Rich received the Lifetime Achievement Award from CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council. A Marine and graduate of Colorado State University, Jones shares his expertise at

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