Firefighters at the 9/11 Memorial Museum last year pause after the ringing of...

Firefighters at the 9/11 Memorial Museum last year pause after the ringing of the bell marking the first attack on the World Trade Center. Credit: Craig Ruttle

For the past 21 years, the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks has been marked nationwide by moments of silence, the readings of the victims' names and flags standing at half-staff. 

But a group of New York lawmakers, including one from Long Island, has proposed enshrining 9/11 as the nation's 12th federal holiday.

The September 11th Day of Remembrance Act was introduced late last month by Rep. Michael Lawler, a Republican from Pearl River in Rockland County. The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Anthony D'Esposito (R-Island Park), along with Democratic Reps. Pat Ryan of Ulster County, who was in his second year at West Point on the day of the attacks, and Rep. David Trone of Maryland.

"As the years pass, people do tend to forget that this was one of the darkest days in our nation's history," said D'Esposito, a retired NYPD detective. "There were people that gave their all and there are people that are still giving their all … So commemorating those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and those who fought so hard for them on that day, is a great way to honor them and remember them."

There are currently 11 federal holidays — which technically apply only to federal employees and those in the District of Columbia — after President Joe Biden signed legislation adding Juneteenth to the list in 2021.

However, many nonfederal employers close their offices on federal holidays such as Christmas, Memorial Day and Thanksgiving, although less so on others, including Columbus and Martin Luther King Jr. days.

While Sept. 11 is not a federal holiday, Congress in 2001 dubbed it a National Day of Service and Remembrance, and named it Patriot Day.

In 2021, then-State Assemb. Lawler sponsored legislation to make Sept. 11 a state holiday, although the measure failed to gain enough support for passage. Rockland County's Sept. 11 memorial lists the names of 81 people "with ties to Rockland" who were killed in the attacks, according to its website.

"Thousands of families have faced the repercussions of that day, especially the families of those who worked tirelessly on the pile, trying to find survivors and helping other families find closure," Lawler said in a statement.

The Sept. 11 attacks left nearly 3,000 dead in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, while thousands more, including first responders, have died in the past two decades of chronic health issues related to the toxic air and dust in lower Manhattan. 

John Feal, of Commack, a demolition supervisor who was seriously injured during the World Trade Center rescue and recovery effort, said "ignorant, poor leadership" and a lack of bipartisanship have held up efforts to make Sept. 11 a federal holiday, including a measure during the previous Congress by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley).

Feal, who leads the Nesconset-based FealGood Foundation, which advocates for other Ground Zero first responders, said the burden is now on Congress to back up its words with actions.

"Every Sept. 11, they come out and say the same old thing — 'Never forget.' But if they truly never want to forget they would make this a federal holiday," Feal said. "Then it would be in the minds of Americans to not only remember those that we lost that day, but it would force people to remember why they're given the day off. That's because of the sacrifice of a few thousand men and women in uniform and nonuniform, who have literally made the ultimate sacrifice."

While it's unclear specifically what has held up past efforts to make Sept. 11 a federal holiday, some experts have suggested cost could have been a factor.

The estimated taxpayer cost for each federal holiday is more than $850 million — excluding the military or the U.S. Post Office — as federal employees are paid for the day but do not have to show up for work, according to data from the National Taxpayers Union, a conservative anti-tax group.

Meanwhile, those federal employees who are required to work on federal holidays typically receive holiday premium pay for the day, in addition to their ordinary wages, according to the federal Office of Personnel Management.

Congressional experts also have speculated that lawmakers may be concerned that making Sept. 11 a federal holiday could risk turning one of the nation's darkest days into just another day off work where Americans can grab the last rays of sun at the beach, host family barbecues or capitalize on big sales.

D'Esposito is confident that Americans would continue to treat Sept. 11 with reverence if it became a federal holiday. 

"I think that it's up to us as individuals; up to us as leaders and up to those who are educators to make people understand that this is a day where we're remembering and paying tribute," he said. "It's not a day off. It's not a mattress sale. It's not a day to get a discount on a car. It's a day to remember and honor the fallen who made that sacrifice on one of the worst attacks on American soil."

For the past 21 years, the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks has been marked nationwide by moments of silence, the readings of the victims' names and flags standing at half-staff. 

But a group of New York lawmakers, including one from Long Island, has proposed enshrining 9/11 as the nation's 12th federal holiday.

The September 11th Day of Remembrance Act was introduced late last month by Rep. Michael Lawler, a Republican from Pearl River in Rockland County. The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Anthony D'Esposito (R-Island Park), along with Democratic Reps. Pat Ryan of Ulster County, who was in his second year at West Point on the day of the attacks, and Rep. David Trone of Maryland.

"As the years pass, people do tend to forget that this was one of the darkest days in our nation's history," said D'Esposito, a retired NYPD detective. "There were people that gave their all and there are people that are still giving their all … So commemorating those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and those who fought so hard for them on that day, is a great way to honor them and remember them."

WHAT TO KNOW

  • A group of New York lawmakers, including one from Long Island, has proposed enshrining Sept. 11 as the nation's 12th federal holiday.
  • The September 11th Day of Remembrance Act was introduced last month by Rep. Michael Lawler, a Republican from Pearl River in Rockland County.
  • There are currently 11 federal holidays, with Juneteenth added to the list in 2021.

Eleven federal holidays

There are currently 11 federal holidays — which technically apply only to federal employees and those in the District of Columbia — after President Joe Biden signed legislation adding Juneteenth to the list in 2021.

However, many nonfederal employers close their offices on federal holidays such as Christmas, Memorial Day and Thanksgiving, although less so on others, including Columbus and Martin Luther King Jr. days.

While Sept. 11 is not a federal holiday, Congress in 2001 dubbed it a National Day of Service and Remembrance, and named it Patriot Day.

In 2021, then-State Assemb. Lawler sponsored legislation to make Sept. 11 a state holiday, although the measure failed to gain enough support for passage. Rockland County's Sept. 11 memorial lists the names of 81 people "with ties to Rockland" who were killed in the attacks, according to its website.

"Thousands of families have faced the repercussions of that day, especially the families of those who worked tirelessly on the pile, trying to find survivors and helping other families find closure," Lawler said in a statement.

The Sept. 11 attacks left nearly 3,000 dead in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, while thousands more, including first responders, have died in the past two decades of chronic health issues related to the toxic air and dust in lower Manhattan. 

A reminder of sacrifice

John Feal, of Commack, a demolition supervisor who was seriously injured during the World Trade Center rescue and recovery effort, said "ignorant, poor leadership" and a lack of bipartisanship have held up efforts to make Sept. 11 a federal holiday, including a measure during the previous Congress by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley).

Feal, who leads the Nesconset-based FealGood Foundation, which advocates for other Ground Zero first responders, said the burden is now on Congress to back up its words with actions.

"Every Sept. 11, they come out and say the same old thing — 'Never forget.' But if they truly never want to forget they would make this a federal holiday," Feal said. "Then it would be in the minds of Americans to not only remember those that we lost that day, but it would force people to remember why they're given the day off. That's because of the sacrifice of a few thousand men and women in uniform and nonuniform, who have literally made the ultimate sacrifice."

While it's unclear specifically what has held up past efforts to make Sept. 11 a federal holiday, some experts have suggested cost could have been a factor.

Cost to taxpayers

The estimated taxpayer cost for each federal holiday is more than $850 million — excluding the military or the U.S. Post Office — as federal employees are paid for the day but do not have to show up for work, according to data from the National Taxpayers Union, a conservative anti-tax group.

Meanwhile, those federal employees who are required to work on federal holidays typically receive holiday premium pay for the day, in addition to their ordinary wages, according to the federal Office of Personnel Management.

Congressional experts also have speculated that lawmakers may be concerned that making Sept. 11 a federal holiday could risk turning one of the nation's darkest days into just another day off work where Americans can grab the last rays of sun at the beach, host family barbecues or capitalize on big sales.

D'Esposito is confident that Americans would continue to treat Sept. 11 with reverence if it became a federal holiday. 

"I think that it's up to us as individuals; up to us as leaders and up to those who are educators to make people understand that this is a day where we're remembering and paying tribute," he said. "It's not a day off. It's not a mattress sale. It's not a day to get a discount on a car. It's a day to remember and honor the fallen who made that sacrifice on one of the worst attacks on American soil."

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