Today is Patriot Day, when we as a nation honor those who died or were injured in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Officially known as National Day of Service and Remembrance, this observance recognizes first responders for their heroic efforts and sacrifices, including those who made the ultimate sacrifice while trying to save someone else’s life. In this year of pandemic and extreme weather, this day takes on the special purpose of recognizing health workers and essential workers who are being considered the first responders on the front lines of fighting COVID-19, along with first responders to hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes and other disasters.

Taking part and being of service while keeping yourself and others safe

Participating in Patriot Day will look much different this pandemic year with most public events being cancelled. New York’s annual “Tribute in Light” installation (with twin beams of light reaching into the heavens to represent the World Trade Center) will be held, reversing an earlier decision to cancel it. Still, Patriot Day was envisioned as national call to service, in which smaller acts of kindness and recognition convey an impactful message. Rest assured, each of us can continue to honor those who were lost and those who continue to do battle on the front lines for others. Here are some ideas:

Display the American flag outside of your home today. The U.S. flag will be flown at half-mast at the White House and at all government buildings and establishments around the world.

From wherever you are today at 8:46AM Eastern Time, stop and take a moment of silence to remember the nearly 3,000 people who died in the attacks, which began at that time when American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Watch a livestream of the event today via the National 9/11 Memorial & Museum or other museum, cultural center or news outlet.

Fire investigator Brandon Siebert encourages memorializing a single person of the nearly 3,000 who died in the attack. If you’re a parent, lead your child in a homeschool assignment to learn about the person by creating a poster or vision board.

Find a volunteer opportunity to provide service to your community, especially to seniors. The federal Corporation for National and Community Service also lists these ideas for safely helping your community during COVID-19.

Take part in a local community service event. Asa Shuey, franchise partner-owner of Amada Wichita, donated time and support to help coordinate a drive-through Veterans Resource Fair taking place today. The 55 vendors will be spaced safely in a large parking lot to allow participants to drive by to collect goods, giveaways and veteran-centered service information.

Post a sign in your front window or on your lawn that says “spread kindness,” “thank you to the helpers,” “we’ve got this,” or a similar encouraging message.

Society has benefitted from first responders for a long time

Though it may seem like “first responder” is a modern concept, the role is a specific one that has been around a long time. According to the non-profit Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association, a professional organization representing the largest and the oldest medical resident group in the world, the earliest links of the first responder chain were forged as far back as the Civil War. “With widespread trauma, a systematic and organized method of field care and transport of the injured was born out of necessity,” states EMRA, describing today’s pre-hospital emergency care as “a hierarchy of human and physical resources utilized in the acute care setting to provide the best possible patient care until definitive care can be established.”

The 9/11 attacks brought the term “first responder” into the public consciousness and the official lexicon of emergency services. This seemingly innocuous term represents many decades of innovative developments in the treatment of the ill and injured and the logistics of their safe transportation to medical care facilities. Today’s first responder is a person with specialized education and training on providing assistance upon first arriving to the scene of an emergency.

Continuing your show of support

In this period of COVID-19, mental health providers are taking the lessons learned from 9/11 to create effective care programs for public emergency responders, healthcare workers and other essential workers. It’s anticipated that the pandemic could lead to more PTSD and depression among medical workers. Around the world, they report feeling anxiety over long hours, high risk of infection and uncertainty, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Administrators at many medical centers, hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation centers, as well as assisted living communities report being overwhelmed by messages of gratitude and appreciation. Consider that during this incredibly challenging time, there can never be enough positive messages to continue bolstering the spirits and morale of healthcare workers, essential workers, first responders, and caregivers. So keep sending thank you cards and emails, make encouraging posts on social media, make a blood donation to the American Red Cross, call a healthcare worker you know personally, and wave and smile to those in scrubs. All these little acts of kindness and more tell them that they are making a difference and that they matter.

“In Recognition of Essential Workers this Patriot Day,” written by Michelle Flores, Amada blog contributor.