For many Americans, the annual anniversary of 9/11, now in its 20th year, elicits many emotions. “Patriot Day” is an opportunity to unite in commemoration of the nearly 3000 lives lost in attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.
The annual observance of 9/11 is also a way to honor the courage and sacrifices of the civilians and service personnel who acted heroically that day. Among them were our first responders, those who risked their lives to save others and be part of the recovery effort at Ground Zero.
More than 400 of these firefighters, police officers, and emergency personnel died on 9/11. Many more died in subsequent years because of health conditions linked to toxic exposure at Ground Zero. Then there are the tens of thousands of 9/11 first responders and loved ones who are living with and being treated for health conditions related to their service—of which post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the most common.
If you’re wondering what to do on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, consider sending a message of support and gratitude to our first responders. Here are five ideas for how to do that.
Observe a Moment of Silence
On this day when U.S. flags are lowered to half-mast and a country-wide moment of silence is observed at 8:46am ET, take a moment to stop, remember, and appreciate the sacrifice of so many. You can also encourage others in your workplace, home, or school to mark this day with a moment of silence and time together as a community.
Attend or Support a First Responder Patriot Day Activity
If there is a first responder gathering or event in your area, consider attending or offering your support. You might also give a donation to honor the sacrifices of those on 9/11 and those who protect and serve our communities every day. There are many organizations that advocate for the health of first responders and could use the financial and volunteer support.
Sponsor a Meal for Local First Responders
Food is a universal sign of care and appreciation. Call your local firehouse, police station, or hospital emergency room and offer a meal to be delivered to support the staff. During the Coronavirus epidemic especially, emergency responders could use a moment of appreciation for their hard work and an opportunity for self-care.
Share a Good Message on Social Media
We are all so interconnected today with the internet, social media sights, and applications such as Twitter. Post a supportive comment or share a good article. A shoutout on social media helps us remember and show our support for the men and women who are on the front lines and taking care of our communities.
Write to Your Elected Officials
You can also use your voice to call for better mental healthcare for first responders. Greater public awareness about the stress of these jobs and their toll on mental health is has led to more of a commitment by local, state, and national entities to address issues like substance abuse, suicide, and mental disorders. More can be done. Write to your elected officials to encourage them to prioritize and find ways to support the mental health of first responders and their families.
Ultimately, what you choose to do on 9/11 matters less than the act of remembering itself. It is an opportunity to recognize the sacrifice of the many civilians and service personnel who came to the rescue that day and those first on the scene of an emergency today. Even a small gesture or simple “thank you” can help these heroic public servants feel supported.