Two anniversaries remind us of a truth

Sunday marks two anniversaries of note. Most conspicuously, it is exactly 10 years since the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. But it is also the six-month anniversary of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Both were disastrous tragedies. Both resulted in massive destruction and loss of lives. And both seemed, for a moment, to stop the world from turning.

Sunday's anniversaries lend themselves to reflection on one obscure point that they share. Both events threatened to bring the auto industry to its knees -- the terrorist attacks because they momentarily made Americans feel that it was meaningless to continue living and consuming as we had lived and consumed before; the Japanese earthquake because it temporarily severed one of the global industry's biggest and most vital arteries.

Buying a new car was about the last thing on anyone's mind in the days and weeks immediately after Sept. 11, 2001. Who had the stomach for it?

Obtaining a new car became the industry's biggest worry in the days and weeks after Mar. 11, 2011. Who had the parts for it?

But Sunday brings heart on this minor point.

Six months after Mar. 11 and 10 years after Sept. 11, the auto industry remains what it always was and will be.

Engineers, rescue workers and determined citizens have put Japan back onto its industrial tracks, even as the losses continue to be mourned. New York and America have made it clear that the best way to honor the dead is with a robust celebration of life and the living.

People want cars. In our civilization, it is a fact that people need cars. Those staggering blows of warlike violence and merciless natural disaster didn't change that reality. How could anything?

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