What does remembering September 11, 2001 mean in 2022?
People my age, especially those of us who served, are at a strange inflection point. We’ve never known an adult world that wasn’t shaped by 9/11, but we were old enough at the time to understand this pivotal moment in ways young kids and those not yet born never could. We weren’t shielded from the tragedy. We weren’t shielded from the incomprehensible heroism. And that matters.
I remember the wave of genuine patriotism and goodwill that flooded the country in the wake of the tragic attacks of September 11th. Your politics didn’t matter so much— we were all Americans who would stand together. We mourned the loss of human life to such senseless, indiscriminate violence. We honored the selfless heroism of the police and first responders who kept going forward. We swelled with pride when we knew someone who was stepping up to serve our country. For a brief moment, we were united in a genuine patriotism that actively wills the good of the country above and beyond any self-serving interests.
What passes for “patriotism” today wouldn’t be recognizable to me in September 2001. There is none of the soberness and universality that rose from the ashes of 9/11. Today’s counterfeit “patriot” gives shallow reverence to national symbols while ignoring her laws and democratic foundations. The counterfeit patriot only honors servicemembers and their service when it suits an agenda. The counterfeit patriot seeks to make America better for him and ”real Americans” like him alone. The counterfeit patriot convinces others that a divisive nationalism is what patriotism means and many (understandably) distance themselves from it.
We honor the victims and heroes of September 11th when we are true patriots. True patriots are not defined by their political ideas. Patriots seek the good of our country and countrymen first with our differing politics just reflecting the different ways we try to get there. We ask what we can do for our country to make it a better place for our neighbors and children, and are willing to put ourselves outside of our comfort zone to serve that higher virtue.
May God bless you and give you peace and hope this Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance! 🇺🇸