Frankly, it’s hard to get people to care these days about anything really. The world moves so quickly and all of us get so wrapped up in our day-to-day lives that it often takes a tragedy to get us to snap out of our apathy and come together for the greater good of those in need.

The important thing, of course, is the end result–what we’re able to accomplish as a united force; what we’re able to contribute, and how we’re able to help. Recently, there have been quite a few natural disasters that have brought people together. Just last month in February, the country of Chile experienced a major earthquake – actually classified as a “megathrust”–which killed nearly 800 people and triggered a tsunami, similar to the 2004 Indian Ocean temblor that we’ll discuss here as well. The 8.8 earthquake, which tore down buildings, bridges, and ripped open highways from Santiago to Concepcion, was believed to be 500 times more powerful than the recent earthquake in Haiti, though it was centered offshore and caused fewer deaths. In this particular case, the United Nations sent aid to Chile, along with the Red Cross and other humanitarian groups, but the response from everyday citizens–unfortunately–has been lukewarm. Thankfully, that response is not customary, as we’ll soon find out with these five recent historical disasters that brought people together.

September 11, 2001
Though the attacks of September 11, 2001 happened nearly nine years ago, the event is still on the mind of the countless Americans directly effected by the coordinated suicide attacks made by al-Qaeda. Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives that day and while many still mourn the losses of their loved ones, what also comes to mind is the unbelievable outpouring of humanity and patriotism that brought people together in the name of one of the largest terrorist attacks in the history of the world.

Americans from every state and citizens from every corner of the globe responded with acts of heroism, acts of sacrifice, and with acts of generosity. Volunteer firefighters from cities small and large poured into New York City to assist in recovery efforts. There were also candlelight vigils, telethons to raise money for the families who’d lost loved ones, and promises by other countries to assist the United States in any way they could. Essentially, the most horrific thing that could have ever happened banded the U.S. together, with everyone sending prayers, well wishes, and assistance in any way they could. The true heroes of that horrific day continue to be the first responders, the police officers and firefighters who put their lives at risk entering the towers before they collapsed.

War in Iraq, 2003
The War in Iraq, first waged in 2003, tore apart the United States and the countries who chose to support the U.S.’ invasion. It seemed as if half the country felt the war was warranted, while the other half thought it unnecessary and unjustifiable. As the war waged on, the death toll began to rise and young soldiers began returning to their countries in body bags. The ones who were luckier returned missing limbs and experiencing severe emotional problems in the form of post traumatic stress disorder.

No matter which side of the fence you stood on, however, it was apparent that both sides supported the troops and wanted them to return home safely. Anti-war protesters, military families, and those in support of the war marched peacefully in the streets calling for the safe return of the soldiers. Many wore yellow ribbons, outfitted their automobiles and homes with American flags, and volunteered at organizations that sent care packages and other needed materials such as clothing to soldiers overseas.

2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake
The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake occurred on December 26, 2004 off the west coast of Sumatra in Indonesia and it triggered a series of devastating tsunamis on the coasts of areas bordering the Indian Ocean. The magnitude 9.2 earthquake was the second largest ever recorded and it killed nearly 230,000 people in fourteen countries, with the most hard-hit areas being Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand.

Though the earthquake was one of the deadliest natural disasters ever recorded in history, it also prompted one of the most far-reaching and generous humanitarian response. Not only did independent volunteers and aid organizations make the trek to the ravaged coastal towns in the area, but the global community collectively donated more than $7 billion in humanitarian aid. Also, shortly after the disaster, Australia, India, Japan, and the United States formed a coalition led by Pakistan to co-ordinate aid efforts in order to streamline assistance to the area. Months later, however, the coalition handed over those responsibilities to the United Nations.

Hurricane Katrina, 2005
Hurricane Katrina was a category 3 hurricane that began in the Bahamas, though it gained tremendous strength in the Gulf of Mexico and caused major destruction along the Gulf Coast from central Florida to Texas. Despite the damage it caused to other areas, Katrina will forever be tied to the state of Louisiana and more specifically, the city of New Orleans, which experienced the most severe loss of life. Many died as a result of the city’s faulty levee system, which became flooded and as a result caused approximately 80 percent of the city to become extremely flooded.

It took days before aid was received on behalf of the Federal Government, which is why this particular disaster brought people together unlike ever before as everyday individuals were galvanized into helping those in need. Local-level agencies, National Guard soldiers, non-governmental organizations, charities, and private individuals swarmed into the city, helping in any way they could by pulling those in need to safety and providing them with water and other essentials. Charities in at least 19 states created shelters and in many cases opened up their homes to those who were left without one. It was reported that tens of thousands of individual volunteers made the trek to New Orleans to assist in recovery efforts. The world didn’t stand idly by, either. Our hearts went out to those who’d been devastated by the hurricane and the Red Cross received an unprecedented amount of donations for hurricane victims. Hollywood celebrities even came together for an international telethon that raised of thousands of dollars for those in need.

Haiti Earthquake, 2010
The 7.0 magnitude earthquake that his Haiti this past January is still fresh in the minds of many, as recovery and cleanup efforts are still currently being made. The world watched in horror as millions became displaced in the horrible aftermath of the major quake. It’s been reported that three million people were affected by the quake. The official death toll is currently between 217,000 and 230,000 people, but it’s expected to rise and cleanup efforts continue. It has also been reported that 300,000 were injured and an estimated 1,000,000 became homeless as a result of the earthquake.

People from all over the world have banded together to provide aid to the country and this outpouring of help and love still continues today. The United States sent an estimated 20,000 troops to help the country and the Red Cross and other humanitarian groups remain in the area, providing those in need with food, water, shelter, and medical aid.

As is often the case, everyday folks are also making a major contribution by donating money to charities that are delivering supplies to those in Haiti and by volunteering in the country and assisting in any way they can. Celebrities have also played a major part in recovery efforts, as Wyclef Jean’s Yéle Haiti was one of the first organizations on the ground after the quake and George Clooney’s telethon raised thousands for those in need. Some of the world’s most relevant musicians also collaborated on a modern version of Michael Jackson’s “We are the World,” with all funds from the song going to Haiti relief.

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