Serve.gov, the official U.S. Government website, proudly proclaims, "Projects in All 50 States Mark First Time 9/11 Will Be Officially Recognized as a National Day of Service and Remembrance." The official language is really quite lovely:
Our mission is to honor the victims of 9/11 and those who rose to service in response to the attacks by encouraging all Americans and others throughout the world to pledge to perform at least one good deed or other service activity on 9/11 each year. In this way we hope to create a lasting and forward-looking legacy - annually rekindling the spirit of service, tolerance and compassion that unified America and the world in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
Be nice, do good, think happy thoughts and hope people abroad do likewise.
"Service, tolerance and compassion" are who Americans are - all religions, races, colors and origins. We volunteer money, time and skill in extraordinary amounts - tsunami relief; blood donations; the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Teach for America, Project HOPE and the USO; literacy volunteers and Little League volunteers; people who cook, serve and tend the poor, the homeless and the aged through religious and secular service organizations. Kiwanis, Hadassah, the Shriners, the Boy Scouts, the ASPCA. One good deed one day a year isn't enough for most Americans. We didn't need a terrorist attack - and we don't need the government - to tell us about our obligations to others.
September 11th requires more. First, remembering the victims, the heroes by profession and the heroes by chance. Those who rose to the occasion thrust upon them and those who, operating counter to every known human impulse ran toward danger instead of away from it. While Americans generally mark birth dates, Jewish tradition marks the anniversary of death and reflects on the deeds, the hopes and the accomplishments of people whose lives will not be forgotten. We owe the dead the collective memory of their lives, collective thanks for their intrepidity, and collective horror at their fate.
Second, as we remember the dead, we remember who killed them - murdered and murderers are both in our thoughts. September 11th was planned and executed by people who incite violence, train for, pay for and pray for violence, teach and revere violence. When death and destruction come to those they deem enemies, they cheer and pass out sweets. They twist, warp and ruin their own children. They kill other people's children and other people's parents. And they support other people who do all of those things.
They are still out there. "Service, tolerance and compassion" are not their mantra and it remains incumbent upon the United States and our allies to continue to block their way, marginalize them and root them out.
Finally, terrorists and their apologists would have us believe that acts of terror are a response to things America (or Israel or the West) does wrong. While the United States is fully capable of doing wrong or being wrong, 9/11 is a very good day to remember that what we do right is a beacon to millions around the world. We suggest that on September 11th Americans fly the flag, read the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence or the Federalist Papers, and remember that our "lasting and forward-looking legacy" is that which Americans do as free people under an elected government, united by our commitment to freedom, individual civil liberties and the rule of law.