NWA editorial: Taking a holiday?

Sept. 11 should be observed, not marked with a day off

The man, in all sincerity, asked the question: Why isn't it a holiday?

Really? It should join Christmas, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Independence Day, New Year's Day, Thanksgiving? Does it measure up to the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Columbus Day, George Washington's birthday or Veterans Day?

What’s the point?

Understandable calls to make Sept. 11 a national holiday are misplaced. Annual observances are critically important, but the events of 2001 are not the stuff of holdays.

This day, he theorized, is the one in his memory that brought all Americans together, whether here in Northwest Arkansas, in Houston, Texas, in Charlottesville, Va., in Seattle, Wash., or in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Yes, it did.

It was Sept. 11, 2001.

But a holiday? Why would any nation mark with a holiday the date it suffered the most egregious terrorist attack in all of history?

We understand where the gentleman was coming from: In the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and United Flight 93, the people of the United States did rally, and in many cases, the world joined them. We gathered in churches, synagogues and mosques to seek divine guidance for understanding, comfort and peace. We stepped from behind all the technology and the rush of everyday living to reaffirm our human connections. And we shared in mourning the deaths of nearly 3,000 people, injuries to more than 6,000. Our nation was united in grief and, eventually, in anger. We've fought -- and continue to fight -- wars against those who seek to terrorize.

And today, we have accepted that those gleaming twin towers are gone, we've rebuilt at the Pentagon, and we've done what people have done for thousands of years of tragedies -- we've marched forward.

Yes, that unity the gentleman longed for is elusive. Perhaps we should pray that it does not require such a horrific event to help us to be kind to one another, to reach out in friendship and community. To yearn for a better future for our nation and the world in which we must co-exist.

But a holiday? No, thank you.

Remember Pearl Harbor? That was Sept. 11 for our parents, grandparents or great-grandparents. They would probably reverse that, and say Sept. 11 was our Pearl Harbor. Franklin D. Roosevelt was right a day after those events when, standing before Congress, he declared Dec. 7, 1941, was "a date which will live in infamy." It, too, unified a nation. It, too, took us headlong into war. It, too, claimed the lives of too many: 2,403 dead, 1,178 wounded.

Every year, the nation undertakes observances, paying our respects to the magnitude of both Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11 attacks. It is with somber reverence those should continue.

But not a holiday. A date on which our nation suffered violence and fell victim to our enemies is no holiday. It's not a time for cookouts, a final summer trip to the lake or the beach or for cooking out by the pool. It's not a time for sales at our favorite stores or greeting cards.

If VE Day and VJ Day (Victory in Europe, May 8, and Victory over Japan, Sept. 2) are not national holidays, how can Sept. 11 be? No, we don't let terrorists determine our schedule of national holidays.

Let us always remember Pearl Harbor and Sept. 11, to mark our losses and to communicate that we want to live in a peaceful world but always stand ready to defend against those with other ideas.

In the wake of Sept. 11, Congress put forth a bill to designate Sept. 11 as Patriot Day, a national day of mourning. Flags fly at half-staff. Observances are marked across the nation. But Americans do not take a holiday. Instead, they do what they've done since Sept. 11 and Pearl Harbor before it -- they go on. They keep experiencing lives that embrace the freedoms we Americans so cherish, or should, anyway. We're doing what those loved ones and strangers who died on Sept. 11, 2001, would want us to do, except that sometimes we may forget to cherish each other and our nation like we did in the days after the attacks.

Sept. 11 should not be a holiday, but the date should always bring to mind the sacrifices made in the name of freedom, the bravery of those who respond in times of need and our population's capacity -- underused, without a doubt -- for tapping into our best selves when faced with adversity.

Commentary on 09/13/2017

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