Over 2400 years ago the Athenian leader Pericles offered a tribute to the brave warriors who perished during the Peloponnesian War: "Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men."
Over 2400 years ago the Athenian leader Pericles offered a tribute to the brave warriors who perished during the Peloponnesian War: “Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.”
Today, our national Memorial Day continues this same tradition by remembering the 1.1 million U.S. service members who have died in battle. In December 2000, the U. S. Congress passed and the president signed into law, “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s mission is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.
This is a noble and fitting goal. Moreover, it is one to which we should all aspire. Unfortunately, the most visible representations of Memorial Day have to do with barbecue grills, swimming pools and sales. Instead of focusing on sacrifice, loss and bravery, American culture does what it does best: kicks back.
For this reason the events of September 11, 2001 should never be enshrined as a national “holiday” as some have suggested. As most things of its kind do, it would start out with noble intent. Congressmen would deliver impassioned patriotic speeches about the bravery of the passengers who fought the terrorists. Tears would well as a bell tolls for each of the individuals who died when the towers crashed to Earth. A lump would form in our collective throat at yet one more photo montage appears of first responders, dusty and slowly dying. Our national sentiment would be aligned fully behind the enormity of the loss. It would be a moment of summoned American strength and perseverance.
Time will pass. Those directly connected to the events will decline in number. Ardor will cool. It will become one of those moments reduced to trivial “do you remember where you were when…”
Eventually, another group of well-intentioned Congressmen will recon that annually observing the day on September 11th is disruptive to commerce. A bill will be passed and the day moved to the second Monday in September.
A generation will grow up, with no first-hand memory of the day. The long weekend sequential to that of Labor Day will be doubly enjoyed as “two-in-a-row.” Just as the poppies of Flanders Field have become an endangered species, so too will the memories of those planes, the smoldering Pentagon and the falling skyscrapers. In their place, the evening news will air 30 seconds of a president yet to be born, placing a wreath at Ground Zero. It will seem like a good time to buy fresh linens or cook out.