Reporter editorial: Make 9/11 a national holiday

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO Shelter Island Fire Department members at the 9/11 memorial on the Center firehouse grounds, September 11, 2016 Sunday.
BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO Shelter Island Fire Department members at the 9/11 memorial on the Center firehouse grounds, September 11, 2016.

Our country was changed forever on September 11, 2001, and in the aftermath of the terrible events of that day there has been nothing glorious — except the inspiring deeds of individuals in service to others.

We’ve witnessed the courage, selflessness and nobility of the victims of the attacks and their families; the soldiers who fought and died for their comrades and their country; and then there are, of course, the emergency responders of that day. And every day, as we have seen in the humanitarian response to the devastation in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

Shelter Island must never forget the bravery of our own first responders who followed the call of duty into the smoke and wreckage of downtown Manhattan 16 years ago on a perfectly clear September day. Helen Rosenblum, Ed Boyd, Faye Rodriguez, Chris Drake, Ed Kotula, Peter McCracken, Bud Fox, Ken Klenawicus and Ben Jones interrupted their peaceful Island lives — having coffee at STARs Café, returning from an errand off-Island, in a boat waiting for the fish to bite — when the call came. They took two ambulances and rushed to serve strangers in need.

Perhaps one of the greater goods to come out of the events of 16 Septembers ago is the evolution of September 11 as a sort of de facto holiday to remember and honor the work of police, firefighters and ambulance workers in communities throughout the U.S. On September 11 of every year, TV, newspapers and social media abound with tributes and thanks to these brave men and women.

But for far too long, their sacrifices had gone largely overlooked, except in the cases of tragedy or uniquely heroic acts. Our emergency responders perform heroic acts each and every day. Waking up in the middle of the night to respond to a fire alarm or accident is a heroic act. Sacrificing time with relatives — sometimes missing out on birthday parties or ball games — are heroic acts.

The support and understanding of first responders’ partners and children are all small acts of sacrifice and heroism on their parts as well.

September 11 has become a day to remember these sacrifices, and to give a tip of the hat to those working to protect the rest of us from fire, accidents, violent acts and health issues. For these reasons, the Reporter supports the call for making September 11 a national holiday.

As Veterans Day and Memorial Day honor all American members of the Armed Forces, past and present, September 11 — a day marred by great loss — can and should be marked as an official day to honor those who died, and our everyday heroes right here at home.