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A date moving from realm of current events to that of history
Scripps Howard News Service


September 02, 2006

In Suffolk, Va., Sept. 11 will be marked by a procession of residents bedecked in red, white and blue in honor of the 9/11 terror victims and U.S. troops at war. In St. Louis, people wearing yellow T-shirts will form a human ribbon in the middle of Anheuser-Busch Sports Center.

A 7-ton granite globe, which will serve as a monument to those who have served in the war on terrorism, will be dedicated in Corpus Christi, Texas. And somber memorial services will be held at the sites of the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa.




But the fifth anniversary of that shocking day also will bring the International Milk Conference in LaCrosse, Wis., a talk by actress Lauren Bacall about her role in "How to Marry a Millionaire" at a tony New York City nightspot and the first ESPN broadcast of "Monday Night Football."

The date that once seemed eternally exclusive to memories of the worst enemy attack against the U.S. homeland now is moving from the realm of current events to that of history.

And that does not sit well with John Vigiano, a retired New York City fire captain who became a national symbol of the heartbreak and grit that Sept. 11, 2001, produced. Vigiano lost two sons that day: John, a New York City firefighter, and Joe, a New York City police officer.

For six months after, Vigiano, now 67, spent every day at the World Trade Center site taking part in the search for survivors, and then bodies. The remains of Joe, 34, were recovered that October. Those of John, 36, were never found.

Vigiano feels that the significance of the day is already fading, and that galls him. His own intense loss and connection aside, Vigiano says the nation will forget at its own peril.

"Too many people are forgetting about what happened five years ago. Parents say it is too much for children to" be taught about the horror that happened, Vigiano said recently. "We have to remember we lost more people than we lost at Pearl Harbor, and they died a horrific death."

But he - not to mention most other Americans - would no doubt be surprised to learn that the date has indeed been proclaimed a permanent day of remembrance.

On Dec. 18, 2001, Congress voted unanimously to designate every Sept. 11 thereafter as "Patriot Day," which lawmakers said was intended to "perpetuate the memory of those who perished ... and to pursue peace and justice in the world and security at home."

Though many calendars now mark Sept. 11 as Patriot Day, little evidence exists that it has been commemorated as such. Separately, there is a "Patriots Day" that draws widespread attention in April in some New England states, when the Revolutionary War's pivotal Lexington and Concord battles are honored.

Another little-noticed effort is under way to make Sept. 11 a national day of voluntary service and good-deed doing. The idea, conceived by the 9/11 nonprofit group One Day's Pay, is that everyone should do at least one good deed that day. That idea has attracted the sponsorship of New York lawmakers, including Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and GOP Rep. Peter King, but otherwise hasn't made much headway.

The absence of a national holiday, and the scheduling on Sept. 11 of mundane and unrelated events, doesn't bother some.

Retired New York City Fire Department Lt. John Stack, who lost 10 good friends in the trade center's collapse, considers it "natural" that the day is moving to the edges of the country's consciousness. This Sept. 11, Stack, 60, says he intends to pay his quiet respects at a memorial on 111th Street in New York, but not take part in any of the official events.

"Life goes on," Stack said.


E-mail Lisa Hoffman at hoffmanL(at)
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