As we pause this Patriot Day to remember the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I thought I’d offer a few tidbits about the anniversary of that dark day and the holiday it has become since.
As America was recovering from the shock of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, someone — several people, actually — had an idea: that modern “day of infamy” should be held as a sacred day to remember the 2,997 people who died during the attacks. That idea turned into “Patriot Day”. But it wasn’t well-received universally.
Here are a few facts about September 11th that you may or may not already know.
1. Before 9/11, there was already a Patriots’ Day for a different reason.
Massachusetts wasn’t all that happy about the notion of naming September 11th “Patriot Day”. That’s because Massachusetts, Maine and Wisconsin already celebrated “Patriots’ Day” on the third Monday of April. Maine, oddly enough, chose to reverse the apostrophe and the s, turning it into “Patriot’s Day” instead. The reason for their version of the day, however, was to commemorate the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War.
That’s also the day runners converge for the Boston Marathon, where, this past year, a different act of terrorism occurred.
2. The day’s original name was far too long.
When the occasion was initially proposed, its “official” title was the Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of the Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001.
Sure, try fitting that on your average desk blotter calendar and just watch people start reaching for their bifocals to make that title out. The Revolutionary War commemoration aside, Patriot Day was, by comparison, a much better title.
3. The joint resolution requesting the day’s creation received a unanimous vote.
And you thought our lawmakers couldn’t agree on anything!
US House of Representatives Joint Resolution 71 received 407 votes on October 25, 2001. The resolution requested that President Bush designate every September 11th as “Patriot Day”. On November 30th, the Senate likewise passed the resolution unanimously. There wasn’t a “nay” to be heard. At least, not on that particular issue.
President Bush signed it into law on December 18, 2001.
4. There are a few specific activities you’re encouraged to do to remember the victims of 9/11.
The American flag is to be flown at half-staff. (Half-mast, incidentally, refers to ships, which have masts. A flagpole is a staff, not a mast.) This show of respect should be observed at American homes, the White House and all other American government buildings no matter where they are. Then, Americans are encouraged to observe a moment of silence at 8:46am Eastern time, the moment American Airlines Flight 11, the first first of four planes to be hijacked that day, crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Up to five additional moments of silence may be observed at local ceremonies: one such moment comes at 9:03am Eastern, when United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower. Some observe one at 9:37am, marking the moment American Airlines Flight 77 hit the Pentagon. Some pause at 9:59am, to mark the fall of the South Tower of World Trade Center; at 10:02am, when passengers fought back against hijackers to prevent United Airlines Flight 93 from reaching its intended target, instead crashing it in a Pennsylvania field; and at 10:29am, when the remaining North Tower collapsed in Manhattan.
5. Its official name is no longer Patriot Day.
When it comes to naming the holiday, is the third time the charm? Let’s hope not.
On September 10, 2012, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation that changed the name once again, this time from Patriot Day to Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance.
We might as well have stuck with that ridiculously long first attempt at a name.
I have a better idea: why not just call it Remembrance Day. Since it’s what will happen, anyway, let’s just let the American people decide how they’ll spend the day, whether it’s saying prayers for the families of American victims of terrorism or volunteering on a service project to make their part of the country a better place.
It’d keep the focus, at least in name, on remembering the terrible events of 9/11 and those who left us far too soon.
I hope, despite your schedule, you’ll find time to remember the victims of that day and any day since that terrorists have claimed a human life.