NEW YORK — In New York, Rosaleen Tallon watched her younger brother disappear into the smoke of the World Trade Center to help victims; she never saw him again. “God has promised us an eternal life,” she said. “That gave us the only comfort that could help us at that time.”
Eleven years ago this week, Americans were frightened, humbled and felt alone in the aftermath of the attacks on 9-11, which killed more Americans than any single attack besides Pearl Harbor. Many turned to faith, friends and family. The years since have borne witness to turbulent times: two wars, a recession and lingering unemployment. And yet, nearly three in four Americans still have great faith in the American experiment.
Americans don’t have much faith in big institutions — especially big government. Only 17 percent say they have a “great deal” of faith in Congress. Fifty-two percent think the country is worse off than it was four years ago. And yet, 70 percent of Americans still believe that they can still accomplish anything through hard work. Among the beleaguered middle class, three-quarters still believe their children will be better off than they are.
Why? Unique in the world, Americans are more individualistic than any other people. Two out of three Americans believe that their fates are largely in their own hands, and six in 10 Americans — 58 percent — want the freedom to pursue life’s goals without government interference. In major European countries, these attitudes are exactly reversed.