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SPOTLIGHT
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Patriot Day

Published on -9/11/2012, 8:00 AM

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Today marks the 11th anniversary of an event that every American alive that day mostly likely will remember for the rest of their lives. Sept. 11, 2001 -- or more simply 9/11 -- is the day terrorists launched attacks against our country and our way of life via hijacked airplanes in New York City, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania. The brazen acts masterminded by Osama bin Laden resulted in the loss of almost 3,000 fellow citizens and the falling of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers.

The cowardly attack on innocent people spawned two wars and also ignited a patriotic fervor that lingers to this day. Flags around the country will be flying at half-staff to commemorate Patriot Day.

Thankfully, the holiday has not become an entry in Hallmark's pantheon of special days. When then-President George W. Bush signed into law the legislation passed by Congress, he encouraged Americans to honor those killed that day simply "with appropriate ceremonies and activities, including remembrance services and candlelight vigils."

If only such reverence had been employed.

Instead, we engaged the military in Iraq for no reason other than we could. Remnants of steel I-beams from the Twin Towers have made their way to thousands of communities across the country -- instantaneously validating their residents' patriotism and freeing millions from having to even think about public service. Every public safety organization worth its salt has figured out a way to fund routine purchases through the Department of Homeland Security. Airport screeners focus on one non-existent threat after another.

And in New York, at the site of Ground Zero, is the National Sept. 11 Memorial and Museum. What might not be completed until 2014 is expected to cost $700 million. Cost estimates have a way of inflating themselves, so that figure undoubtedly will increase. As will the anticipated annual operating costs of $60 million.

That seems extravagant, even by New York standards. And it won't be New Yorkers alone footing the bill. Congress, which used $300 million in federal tax dollars for construction, already has been approached to commit $20 million per year from the National Park Service for the memorial's upkeep.

At a hearing, a National Park Service official testified that would be more than what the service expends for almost 99 percent of all the parks in its system. For comparison, Gettysburg National Military Park costs $8.4 million to operate while the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor needs $3.6 million.

It would appear that in a relatively short period of time, we've lost sight of whatever lesson Patriot Day was supposed to impart. Erecting an unaffordable monument most Americans will never see is a far cry from the requested moment of silence.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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