Spirit of sacrifice still key part of Patriot Day

Monday, September 11, 2017

Where were you 16 years ago today?

For many of us, we were doing exactly what we are today, doing our best to fulfill the demands of our jobs, just another day at work.

In the newsroom, it started with a call from a spouse at home — a plane had hit a building in New York.

What a tragedy, we thought, must have been a terrible accident, but that’s 1,500 miles away and we’re interested in local news. We’d try to find a story for an inside page.

We can’t remember whether someone found a television set — streaming live video was in its infancy in 2001 — but by the time the fourth plane fell in a Pennsylvania field, we knew exactly what was happening.

Suddenly, New York wasn’t that far away, and planes were grounded at our local airport, the best could do for a photo.

But that was in 2001, a baby born that day is probably celebrating a new drivers license, and many of us wondered why the flags were flying at half-staff, let alone observing a recommended moment of silence at 7:46 a.m. — 8:46 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, the time the first plane hit the north tower.

Volunteers turned out in droves to donate blood, but sadly, there was little need because there were few survivors who needed it.

Thousands of other people expected just another routine day at work, but 412 of them, emergency workers, are included in the 2,977 victims killed in the September 11 attacks.

They included 343 firefighters with the New York City Fire Department, including a chaplain and two paramedics; 37 police officers with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department; 23 police officers of the New York City Police Department; eight emergency medical technicians and paramedics from private emergency medical services, and one patrolman from the New York Fire Patrol.

No one wanted to provide recognition to the terrorists who carried out the act, but those who gave their lives trying to save others are honored with today’s Patriot Day, signed into law by President George W. Bush on Dec. 18, 2001, and first observed September 11, 2002.

Appropriately, workers, students and teachers stay open on Patriot Day, going about their lives in defiance of those who would bring down our nation.

A couple of exceptions are Florida, where residents are still waiting for Hurricane Irma to blow over, and Houston and the Texas Gulf coast, where residents are putting their lives back together after Hurricane Harvey.

The spirit of voluntary sacrifice that marked the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks is still alive in the response to nature’s fury.

They may have forgotten to fly flags at half staff or failed to observe a moment of silence this morning, but there is no better way to observe Patriot Day than the way Americans are responding to their neighbors in distress in Texas and Florida.

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