Patriot Day, 2018

Every year around this time, we are reminded of the nearly 3,000 people who were killed on Sept. 11, 2001. The deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in history, 9/11 saw 19 Islamic extremist militants linked to al-Qaeda hijack four planes. They used them as guided missiles. Loaded with thousands of gallons of jet fuel oil, the planes served as efficient killing weapons in the attacks. 

The images of those burned planes, broken buildings and scorched earth are seared into our collective memory — the horror, forever in place.

On that day, two planes flew directly into the twin towers of New York City’s World Trade Center, at roughly 8:45 a.m. A third plane flew into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a fourth crashed in a Pennsylvania field after passengers fought the terrorists en route in hopes of preventing even more deadly destruction. 

For those who began their day that morning oblivious to the tragedy about to unfold, it was a day like any other. Many people still remember the clear, sunny morning — bright and blue — before trying to register the sight of the towers taking a direct hit, not once, but twice. The images were shown across television screens to a horrified public. It was surreal — the information, difficult to process.

Now, though, 17 years later, we know all too well that the events of that day were indeed real. We know of how they have affected our world and shaped our lives. We know that terrorism is a real and present danger, not just outside of the United States but on American soil as well. We know that our sense of security, our sense of wellbeing, our sense of control is shaky at best.

We also know that tens of thousands of Americans have enlisted in the Armed Forces since 9/11 to protect and defend our country. Some have enrolled in law enforcement, to help serve the public right here in the U.S. Still others have given their time and energy to serve the general population in myriad capacities — as EMTs, as firefighters, as community volunteers. 

Though one of the darkest days in history, Sept. 11 has brought out the best of us. The terrorist attacks resulted in this country uniting. We have a renewed sense of camaraderie — of collaboration — and of everyday citizens willing to shed blood, sweat and tears to help their fellow man.

The anniversary of Sept. 11 is known as Patriot Day (not to be confused with Patriots’ Day). It’s a day to think of the 2,977 people killed, and a day to remember just how special it is to live in the U.S., to be Americans, to fight for democracy and justice.

Today, politics has gotten ugly. Democrats and Republicans would rather battle it out than work together. Our president would rather Twitter his way out of a tight spot than address criticism that might be real and just. Civil discourse seems to have gone right out the window. Yet we must work together.

We have precious rights as Americans, freedoms for which others around the world are still fighting. We should do our best every day to continue to protect those liberties, to pay tribute to them. 

Take heart that, as Americans, we are working to make this planet a better place. Recognize that the rights so many have died for are fragile — not to be abused or misused. Most of all, we must all make sure that we behave in a way that honors our country and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect it. Let’s be proud patriots — and not just on 9/11.