Remembering a day as important as the Fourth

As a nation, we revere July 4th. Or, seeing as how I’m a big believer in “dad jokes,” I could say that we “Revere” July 4th. You know, the whole “Paul Revere” thing and all...

But I digress.

We do invest a ton of respect, patriotism and celebration on the recognition of that day because it is what we consider to be our nation’s birthday. It’s universally accepted as the day that our vaunted forefathers broke off the metaphorical shackles of British oppression and declared the independence of a new world — one based on freedom and a representative form of government that gives every person, regardless his or her situation, an equal voice in how we are to be governed.

A nation by the people, for the people.

Of course, July 4, 1776, was only a stepping-stone in the grand scheme of things, not a standalone day. There was a war that went along with this strongly-worded declaration, which lasted until 1783, and we have seen a constitution, judicial system and sprawling government evolve with changing times and events to try to keep this grand social experiment going forward.

July 4 is indeed a monumental day in the annals of this nation. And, let’s be clear, we are right to celebrate it with all the accompanying pomp and circumstance that we do because it is in honor of the moment that our founding fathers found their collective voice, threw caution to the wind and stood for a future of equality and opportunity.

Obviously, this is a future we are still working for today, but what a long way we have come in such a relative short amount of time, when compared to other, more-established “free” nations. Yes, July 4, 1776, set us on the course. We must just continue to travel it with equal fervor.

This past week — on Wednesday, to be specific — we remembered the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, forever referred to as “9/11” when discussing the impact of that horrific day. Like July 4, 1776, 9/11 left an impact for the future, which we will discuss in a minute. But first, let’s take a look at the sheer numbers of that day.

The coordinated attacks were ultimately conducted at the direction of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and saw 19 terrorists hijack four commercial airplanes — two of which struck the north and south towers of the World Trade Center, respectively, one of which hit the Pentagon and the other crashing in a field near Shanksville, Pa., after passengers reportedly got wind of what was happening and overpowered the terrorists aboard that plane.

Heroes. Absolute heroes on that plane.

According to a fact sheet shared by CNN, a total of 2,977 people were killed in the attacks that day, with ages ranging from 2 to 85 years. The cleanup of “Ground Zero” lasted until May 30, 2002, and took 3.1 million hours of labor to clean up 1.8 million tons of debris, at a cost of $750 million.

The direct economic impact of 9/11 was vast, with an estimated $123 billion economic loss during the first two to four weeks after the attacks, $60 billion in damage to the World Trade Center site, including surrounding buildings and subway facilities, $15 billion in an aid package to bail out the airlines that had to stop flights and $9.3 billion in insurance claims.

The economic hit was serious. The loss of 2,977 lives was devastating. Actually, the loss of one life was devastating, the loss of 2,977 lives was catastrophic, gut-wrenching and fury-inspiring. In fact, it led us to a war in Afghanistan.

A war, by the way, that we are still involved in — 18 years later. A war that has seen 2,219 Americans killed, and 20,090 wounded, in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, according to the Department of Defense’s numbers, as of Aug. 28.

Consider that people who were born on 9/11 are now 18 years old. They can vote. They can enlist in the military without parental permission. They can go off to die in Afghanistan.

The events of Sept. 11 shook many of us to our core, and still have an impact on us emotionally today. I can vividly remember wiping tears off my face as I watched television reports of people walking around Ground Zero with photos of their spouses, children, parents or friends — hoping against hope to be a part of a miracle and find their loved ones safe.

I remember my heart bursting in pride over first-responders who not only did everything that could possibly be expected of them in regards to helping survivors of the attack, but willingly sprinting into buildings that were destined to crumble at any time. So many of them never came back out.

I remember flags waving, musicians pulling together to raise money and spirits, and neighbors sharing hugs. I remember it all. Every part of it. And I’d guess that many of you do, as well.

We should honor Sept. 11 the same way we do July 4. It shaped us. And it continues to shape us today.