Re­mem­ber­ing pa­tri­ots

Record Observer - - Opinion -

Sun­day marked the 15th an­niver­sary of the worst day in our coun­try’s col­lec­tive re­cent mem­ory.

As the cal­en­dar turns, our mem­o­ries grow just a touch hazier and in­ter­est wanes. The usual sus­pects — NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX, CNN, His­tory Chan­nel etc.— played re­mem­brance pro­grams or live-streamed memo­rial cer­e­monies. By the end of the day, how­ever, they re­turned to other sto­ries: the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, which ath­lete kneeled dur­ing the na­tional an­them, etc. Un­like re­cent years, most news­pa­pers prob­a­bly choose to rec­og­nize the an­niver­sary with a larger front page dis­play than usual.

But de­spite the in­creased at­ten­tion that the hor­rific at­tacks re­ceived on this note­wor­thy an­niver­sary, we are con­cerned the na­tion’s aware­ness and re­mem­brance of the day is on a down­ward track.

Fifty years ago, Amer­i­cans were likely be­gin­ning to lose a con­nec­tion to Pearl Har­bor, de­spite the at­tack’s world-chang­ing im­pact. To­day, you would be lucky to find a teen who could tell you Pearl Har­bor oc­curred on Dec. 7, 1941, and re­sulted in more than 2,400 Amer­i­can ca­su­al­ties.

At some point in the near fu­ture, we will most likely stop hold­ing reg­u­lar lo­cal 9/11 com­mem­o­ra­tions un­til the no­table an­niver­saries, such as the 20th, 25th and 50th, ar­rive. None­the­less, nearly 3,000 of our fel­low Amer­i­cans lost their lives 15 years ago in one of the most sense­less acts of vi­o­lence this planet has ever seen. They in­cluded moth­ers and fa­thers, broth­ers and sis­ters, hus­bands and wives. Scores of fam­i­lies will never be the same be­cause of the ac­tions of a few ter­ror­ists.

Un­for­tu­nately, the im­pact of the 9/11 at­tacks ex­tends far past those killed in the crashes and col­lapses, as more than 1,000 Amer­i­cans have de­vel­oped can­cer af­ter work­ing in the wreck­age of the World Trade Cen­ter sites in the days and weeks af­ter, searching for sur­vivors mostly in vain. A Na­tional In­sti­tute for Oc­cu­pa­tional Safety and Health re­port to­taled 1,140 cases of can­cer caused by tox­ins in the dust and de­bris.

The ef­forts of those who rushed into the burn­ing build­ings and dug through the dis­as­ter sites searching for life should be held with the same amount of es­teem as those on the planes.

Last week, Pres­i­dent Obama also signed an ex­ten­sion of the post-9/11 state of na­tional emer­gency — de­clared by Pres­i­dent Bush three days af­ter the 2001 ter­ror­ist at­tacks — for an­other year. Now in its 16th con­sec­u­tive year, the dec­la­ra­tion, which gives the pres­i­dent broad pow­ers over the or­ga­ni­za­tion of the mil­i­tary, is a re­minder that the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of 9/11 have con­tin­ued far past Sept. 11, 2001.

De­spite the end of Op­er­a­tion En­dur­ing Free­dom in Afghanistan and Op­er­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom in Iraq, thou­sands of Amer­i­can sol­diers re­main in Iraq and Afghanistan to­day in low-key ad­vi­sory roles with lo­cal armies. They are still at grave risk in th­ese war zones.

While we cer­tainly hold mem­o­ries of that day — and those un­for­get­table im­ages — close to our heart this week, we ask that com­mu­nity also show its sup­port by fly­ing Amer­i­can flags this week. In the af­ter­math of the at­tacks, we com­forted strangers and sought to be­come bet­ter cit­i­zens in a world turned up­side-down.

Our lo­cal fire de­part­ments do a ter­rific job re­mind­ing us of the sac­ri­fices of that day. Kent Is­land, Grasonville and Church Hill vol­un­teer fire de­part­ments all flew Amer­i­can flags for pass­ing mo­torists to see this past Sun­day — other fire com­pa­nies held spe­cial re­mem­brances as well. Lo­cally, one of the big­gest com­mem­o­ra­tions is held at The Jetty Dock Bar, or­ga­nized by vol­un­teer Justin Davis. There, fire­fight­ers, po­lice, emer­gency med­i­cal re­spon­ders and sol­diers gather for the “Salute to He­roes” — and flags are promi­nently dis­played.

Let the flags re­mind of us of the pa­tri­ots we lost 15 years ago and those who con­tinue to serve us to­day, but let them also re­mind us that we can con­tinue to be pa­tri­ots for each other.

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