There are few days in U.S. history more consequential or somber than September 11, 2001. Every year since the deadly attacks that took nearly 3,000 lives, Americans have paused on September 11 to remember those who died, and to dedicate themselves to serving their communities.
In December 2001, Congress designated September 11 as Patriot Day, and in 2009, as part of the Serve America Act, the day also became a National Day of Service and Remembrance. By attending a memorial service, sharing your personal memories and experiences or by giving back to your local community this Patriot Day, you can ensure that the indefatigable spirit of the victims lives on.
What Happens Every Patriot Day?
In keeping with its solemn tone, Patriot Day is a time of contemplation and service. In the official White House announcement proclaiming last year's Patriot Day, President Joe Biden described some of the ways the government would be commemorating the anniversary.
All flags flown by government branches, agencies and departments fly at half-staff on September 11. A moment of silence is observed at 8:46 a.m. eastern time, acknowledging the time when the first World Trade Center tower was struck.
There is also an annual observance ceremony carried out by the National Park Service at the Flight 93 National Memorial. This quiet location in southern Pennsylvania is the place where that flight crashed on September 11 when heroic passengers and crew prevented it from becoming part of the attacks.
The public service organization AmeriCorps also designates September 11 as one of its two annual National Days of Service, alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The group encourages individuals to pledge to serve their neighbors and offers web resources that connect people with opportunities to help out near them.
Beyond these nationwide and local commemorations, each person can go into their community and perform acts of service on their own to ensure they are showing a resolute, civic-minded spirit on this tragic anniversary. This is an opportunity to put good into the world as part of mourning and remembrance.
What Are Some Ways to Observe Patriot Day?
At first, it can be difficult to know how to mark a somber day like September 11. However, there are numerous ways to remember the tragedy and honor the sacrifices of those who died that day through giving back to your community.
Perhaps the most fundamental part of observing the National Day of Service and Remembrance is simply showing love and kindness to the people in your life, friends, family and strangers alike. This attitude is a good foundation for acts of service, and a way to show that you honor the sacrifices of those who gave their lives.
In a more concrete sense, you can also take part in volunteer projects. The National Park Service recommends getting out to serve, and runs its own events, some in conjunction with groups such as The Mission Continues, a nonprofit community impact group that helps veterans acclimate to lives at home following after they've served.
You can also share memories and reminiscences to ensure the sacrifices of those who perished on September 11, 2001, as well as the first responders who gave so much of themselves to provide assistance on that day, lives on. One of the legacies of September 11 is that everyday people can find heroism within themselves, and honoring that is part of Patriot Day.
We at AFBA hope you'll join us in honoring those who gave their lives September 11, 2001, and those who committed brave acts of service that day, on Patriot Day 2023 and beyond.