Members of the Springs Fire Department were upset that a town planning board hearing on a controversial radio and cellular telephone monopole behind the firehouse was scheduled for last night — that is, Sept. 11, the same evening that the somber annual memorial ceremony is held at Hook Mill.
The memorial ceremony was scheduled for 6 p.m., and the planning board meeting for a half hour later, with the communications tower the fourth item on the agenda.
The planning board holds hearings like this almost always on Wednesdays, but because the radio-pole matter has now dragged on for years, some felt that it could have easily been scheduled for a less-significant day.
The fact that the issue was to come before the planning board on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks was seen by some as a deliberate slap in the face of the firefighters, many of whom believe there is a crisis in emergency communications in the heavily populated hamlet of Springs.
It seems probable that the anger and upset may have reflected not so much the scheduling conflict, which may have been tactless but almost certainly wasn’t intentional, but deeper feelings about the day and whether it is properly remembered each year.
Sept. 11 is not a state or federal holiday, though there are many who believe it should be. Congress designated it as Patriot Day, but only has authority over federal employees and the District of Columbia. If it were to become a national holiday, like Memorial or Labor Day, states and local governments would have to take that step, too.
Supporters of making the annual anniversary a holiday say doing so would be an important reminder for Americans to stay vigilant and to recognize the first responders who died or suffered enduring disabilities as a result of their rescue efforts. A formal day of rest would help keep the story alive; many students entering college this year were just newborns when the attacks took place.
The idea, though popular in polls, has not made headway in state legislatures or Washington, partly because Sept. 11 rotates through the calendar, like Christmas and the Jewish high holy days, and often falls midweek. Midweek breaks can be disruptive to schools and businesses. We already have 10 national holidays, and some in Washington believe that 11 would be too much. Estimates of the cost of a federal day off range upward of $500 million.
This is a knotty subject, and, clearly, still a very emotional one. In its present form, Patriots Day is for some a time of nationalistic vituperation in which to bathe in the dangerous waters of xenophobia. For others, especially those who witnessed the attacks in person or who have a connection with the work of first response, the memories are still too raw to sort out what a 9/11 holiday would look like. Perhaps the question would be better left for another generation to decide.
In the meantime, we doubt Town Hall will be scheduling controversial meetings with firefighters on 9/11 in future.