Wednesday was Patriot Day, or to be more accurate it’s now called “Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance.”
If the significance of that day doesn’t immediately come to mind, all you have to do is list the date. Sept. 11. Nine-Eleven, as it’s come to be called and the capital letters are appropriate.
It’s not quite a holiday and that’s literally. It isn’t a federal holiday. School and government offices don’t close. And, of course, it would be highly inappropriate if they did. You don’t commemorate an attempt to shut down the country by shutting down the country.
In fact, it’s such an uneasy, edgy day every year it’s hard to know just how to treat the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the heroism of emergency responders and those airplane passengers who died in that Pennsylvania field.
Of course it’s not a time to celebrate anything, but to ignore the actions of those who gave their lives on that day so the death toll wasn’t more than that numbing figure of 2,997 would be equally inappropriate.
What should we do? Above all, do the one thing that’s unavoidable, to remember. Only a handful of dates in American history compare with Nine Eleven. Everyone remembers where they were when those planes hit the towers, just as everyone remembers where they were when Pearl Harbor was attacked and President Kennedy was assassinated.
Beyond that, it’s difficult to say just exactly what is the purpose of having a Patriot Day, or whatever they choose to call it, every year.
Maybe it’s simply this. To pause, briefly, in the middle of a day that we all hope and pray will end up pretty much like the other 364 on the calendar, to remember and redouble our efforts that Sept. 12, and all the days following it will never have a repeat of what happened in 2001.
And you know what? Twelve years out, we’re doing that pretty well.—M.B.