September 30, 2001 11:00 pm

Its hard to see bright spots in the horrible terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., Sept. 11. But a couple come to mind. One is Americans pulling together and being inspired, as 2000 presidential candidate John McCain declared, to a cause greater than their own self-

interest. A second and related bright spot is people getting a wakeup call for the importance of voluntarism in building communities and a country.

While exact statistics arent available locally, it appears many people have stepped up donations to the Red Cross and other agencies helping in this time of crisis. Students and others have gotten together to start fund drives. Nationally, the Points of Light Foundation, a national volunteer center, has reported its phones ringing off the hook.

Whats this all about? Were relearning the importance of making connections with others, of realizing that neighbors can make a difference, of leaving a legacy. The volunteer needs are great, and not just in relation to the national crisis. Volunteers can help seek justice locally by investing in the community.

If you want to get involved, you might check out the following resources on the Net:

Points of Light Foundation:

Youth Service America:

Action Without Borders:

United Way of America:

The attacks could breed cynicism, which novelist Susan Sontag calls a dead end. Or they could breed a renewed call to community service, which could turn a very bad day in America into a good decade. The important thing is we sustain our efforts in civic responsibility long after the crisis fades from the front page.

Challenge ahead

Its the economy, dummy. That likely will be the theme for the coming election of the next governor of Oregon, to fill John Kitzhabers shoes. With state lawmakers readying for a special session to whittle the budget, candidates from former state Treasurer Jim Hill to Salem Lawyer Kevin Mannix are singing the budget blues. As well they should. As the nationwide economy slumps, Oregons does too, as we have less room to slump. The states median income continues to sag below the national average, while the jobless rate is among the nations highest. Job growth, meanwhile, has been abysmal at best the past several months.

Whoever is elected governor will face huge challenges. The good news is, Oregon has a lot of room for improvement, and the new governor can take credit if the state improves its national ranking in median income, joblessness or job growth. The next Oregon governor will need a willingness to hear all sides and to be a consensus-building moderate. He or she will need to be vigilant in making the state not just an environmental leader but also an economic leader. The two can co-exist with careful planning and nurturing of quality of life, education and seeing the state in shades of gray, not just black or white.