Patriot Day, the annual observance of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, will take place in 2020, but with differences as Americans fight a new threat, the coronavirus. In New York City, it was feared the virus compelled cancellation of the annual Tribute in Light, because social distancing would be impossible for workers creating the tribute, and because crowds would continue to spread the pandemic. However, community support for the tribute, which has become a beloved tradition, made it possible to continue, and Tribute in Light was rescheduled at the last minute to go on in 2020. Meanwhile, scaled down, socially distanced observances of the somber occasion will continue around the United States.
New York asks that buildings light up, with spires in blue, to honor the nearly 3,000 victims of the 911 attacks. Live reading of victims’ names by family members will not take place in 2020 as it has in the past. A recording will be played instead. That memorial service has traditionally taken place at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in Lower Manhattan, which will allow family members to visit as usual, but with stringent social distancing measures in place. The memorial is closed to the public for the present. Cities and towns around the country are asked to observe the day in traditional ways that don’t need social distancing measures or special adaptations for the pandemic.Read More »
Patriot Day, although observed around the world, is not an official federal holiday; there are no closings. On Patriot Day, every Sept. 11, Americans are asked to display flags at half staff in mourning for the lives lost. A national moment of silence is observed at 8:46 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, the time when the first plane crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. It’s also appropriate to share family memories or teach older children about the historical event. Church bells may toll to honor the dead. In previous years when pandemic did not prevent community gatherings, candlelight vigils have been conducted.
New York’s Patriot Day
New York’s observance has always focused on the memorial reading of names of those who died. This is at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Family members are invited to gather while observing social distancing guidelines.
Six minutes of silence will be observed, beginning at 8:46 a.m., one for each time a Twin Tower was struck and then fell, and two more for the times of the attack on the Pentagon and the crash of United Airlines Flight 93.
Houses of worship are encouraged to toll bells at 8:46.
The Tribute in Light, an art installation of twin beams four miles into the sky, can be seen within a 60-mile radius. Many public buildings also have signed on to light up facades and spires in blue from dusk until dawn on Sept. 11.
A History of Patriot Day
The first Patriot Day was announced for Sept. 11, 2002, by President George W. Bush. In September 2016, President Barack Obama also named the day a National Day of Service and Remembrance.
The Terror Attacks of 911
The events of Sept. 11, 2001, are regarded as the deadliest terror attack in human history. Four airplanes were hijacked by members of the Islamist terrorist group al-Queada. Two were flown into the Twin Towers of Lower Manhattan’s World Trade Center. Both collapsed.
A third plane was flown into the Pentagon in Virginia, partially collapsing the building. The fourth plane, United Airlines Flight 93, was headed toward Washington, D.C., went down in Pennsylvania after passengers challenged the hijackers. In addition to the nearly 3,000 victims from the buildings, resulting fires and airplane crashes, health problems persisted for many survivors. More than 400 police officers, firefighters, emergency personnel and Port Authority officers were among the dead.
To Learn More
The 9/11 Memorial and Museum offers a virtual tour at its website.
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