Honoring one another is heart of Patriot Day

“Today, let us remember that our union — forged and strengthened through adversity — will never be broken and that the

immeasurable sacrifices of our patriots

will never be forgotten.

— Presidential Proclamation on

Patriot Day, 2019

For those that bore witness to the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, the annual observance is forever embroidered with sadness and grief. Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in the multiple acts of terror perpetrated in the name of hate. Among them were Hinsdale residents Jeff Mladenik and Bob Rasmussen.

Tomorrow marks the 19th anniversary of that unfathomable, unforgettable occasion. We call it Patriot Day, in large part because of the astonishing feats of selflessness and life preservation by first responders and ordinary Americans in response to those bent on destruction and death.

In last year’s Patriot Day proclamation, President Donald Trump recalled the images many of us watched from Ground Zero in New York City or learned of from loved ones of passengers aboard the United Airlines or American Airlines flights that had been turned into missiles.

“First responders instantly rushed into harm’s way to save their fellow Americans from the wreckage of the attacks,” the proclamation stated. “On board United Flight 93, a group of heroic individuals braced themselves to stop hijackers from hitting our nation’s Capital.”

Astonishing courage in the face of unbridled evil, providing a source of deep inspiration even as we mourn and remember the victims. The confusion and disbelief so many of us felt soon was replaced with seething anger that such heinous acts could be committed and a consuming desire for vengeance.

But we had seen the face of hate, and that was not the form that justice could take. Sandy Dahl, wife of Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl, put is this way: “If we learn nothing else from this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.”

New York City emerged from the ashes, church attendance returned to its pre-9/11 levels and, nearly two decades later, that primal urge to lash out seems to have gained a foothold in our political discourse and tribalist tendencies. What’s lost in the shrill rhetoric is that we share a love of country that should compel us to treat one another with a respect that transcends party affiliation.

“Even the smallest act of service, the simplest act of kindness, is a way to honor those we lost, a way to reclaim that spirit of unity that followed 9/11,” remarked President Barack Obama in one of his tributes to Patriot Day.

Regular Americans demonstrated extraordinary acts of bravery on that day. But extraordinary acts need not be restricted to time of calamity and catastrophe. They can be extended everyday. May those who stepped up then, and those who put themselves in harm’s way today, whether on the battlefield or in the ICU, be our shining light.