Every year on the anniversary of the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, we stop, reflect and vow to never forget the lives that were lost that day.
For me, a young high school civics teacher at the time, the day is impossible to forget. I did my best to reassure my classroom full of 15 year olds that everything was going to be OK, because that was my purpose in that moment. In truth, I needed that reassurance myself. I didn’t know what the future would hold for me, my family, my school and for the country.
Fortunately, I was raised by a father who was fiercely patriotic. He was a police officer and a combat veteran who served in the Vietnam War. After the initial shock of what we would ultimately become the worst terror attack on the United States faded, I came to find the reassurance that I needed: Americans always answer the call.
Always have; Always will.
For generations, patriotic Americans have sacrificed for the greater good both here and abroad. After September 11, our nation responded not just militarily, but also in quiet moments in classrooms, at kitchen tables and church pews. Americans brought their collective generosity to bear when the country needed it most.
The attack shocked our senses and, ultimately, had the unintended consequence of bringing Americans closer together by shining a light on our collective humanity, our shared values and experiences.
The response to the attacks of 9/11 are as close to the embodiment of patriotism as one could imagine. For me, patriotism has never been about the boast or the brag. In its purest form, patriotism is a willingness to answer the call when your neighbor is in need. It is a devotion to the principles that we hold dear.
Patriotism is a daily effort to make a positive impact on your community.
I am fortunate to rub shoulders with patriots every day — incredible women and men who share in the belief that all students are entitled to an education and that the future of our country depends on their success.
Our role as educators could not be more vital; embedded in our mission is to reinforce the values that have made our Republic strong and resilient, and to help students find a way to contribute to it. This is what it means to be a good citizen and, truly, it is the simplest form of patriotism.
Let’s commit to honoring the memory of the victims of the September 11th attacks by reinforcing in our young people the desire to contribute, in a positive way, to our community. Our young people must not only know the ideals that have made our country great, but also how they are reflected in the simple acts of patriotism that happen every day.