That was the attitude in Chicago in 1871. And in Galveston, Texas, after the hurricane of 1900; in San Francisco after the earthquake of 1906; at Pearl Harbor after the sneak attack in 1941.
It's the American attitude: We always spring up off the mat, always rebuild bigger and better.
At least until now. In New York City, where terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center, and in New Orleans, where Katrina flooded most of the city, Americans are arguing over how, when and even whether to rebuild.
The qualities we associate with recovery from disaster — urgency, unity, determination, imagination — have been eclipsed by indecision, delay and dissension.
To some, it's a disturbing change. “Great nations rebuild,” says Douglas Brinkley, a historian at New Orleans' Tulane University. He blames the dithering in Lower Manhattan and his own city on a failure of political leadership.
“If we had the will in 1947 to rebuild the capitals of Europe, why don't we have the will in 2006 to rebuild the capital city of the Mississippi (River)?” he asks. “Most Americans are oblivious to what's happening, because no one is standing in the bully pulpit to tell them.”
Why does America seem to rebuild and rebound differently today than it has in the past?