Eventually, this day in late summer may ultimately be best known as Patriot Day, as proclaimed by the president under authorization of Congress. But for a while yet, we will continue to know it primarily as “9/11.”
But the term Patriot Day beckons us to look beyond only the combination of distress, sorrow and outrage the free world experienced on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorist attacks that toppled twin office towers in New York City, severely damaged the Pentagon and prompted passengers aboard a fourth airliner to take heroic measures to prevent further loss of life.
Certainly, those airline passengers were patriots. And in ways they cannot know, the almost 3,000 innocent victims from throughout the world — not just the United States — are patriots, too. And the term may best rest on the shoulders of the hundreds of firefighters and police officers to raced to the scene and did what they are trained to do despite the obvious danger to themselves. When others were running for cover, they were running into the heart of the disaster to see if there was someone — any one — they could help.
The rest of us exhibit a form of patriotism as well when we pause to remember that day, remember those actions and remember our unity in response. Those emotions have faded somewhat over the past eight years, and that unity has disintergrated.
But this remains: During those dark hours and days that followed the attacks, we proved what we’re like when we’re at our very best.