Who’s Afraid of the Number 11?

What you really should be worried about on 11.11.11

Do you see the number 11 everywhere? Does the number keep intruding into your life as if someone is trying to tell you something? Thousands answer yes to both of those questions. They are part of the 11 Phenomenon; a growing mass of people believe we are seeing the number 11 more and more as some kind of sign, possibly a warning.

There are hundreds of websites and You Tube videos dedicated to the phenomenon. And on November 11, 2011 or 11.11.11, a movie will be released that is based on the theory that the “11 prophecy” will come true on that date and a gateway to hell will open.

Numerologists believe this is all a bunch of hooey, more of a sign that we have a furtive collective imagination than one of a spiritual awakening or impending doom.

But both the skeptics and the believers are wrong. 11.11.11 is real, and there is nothing mystic, demonic and spiritual about it. Those numbers should have a deep and lasting significance for all Americans.

It was the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month that fighting stopped in World War I with the signing of the Armistice. When President Woodrow Wilson first declared November 11th as Armistice Day in 1918, the hope was that companies would suspend work at 11AM to mark the moment that peace came to the world.

We now call November 11th Veterans Day. But as time has marched on and America has marched through a dozen more wars, the meaning of the day has been lost. Sure there are parades that get token coverage from TV news, but the biggest headlines remembering the day are from department store sales. We have all but forgotten the day, and worse, the veterans the day is supposed to honor.

I propose that on the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year of the new century, we start to change all of that. If you are an employer, suspend work for a time at 11 a.m. today with an early lunch break; provide food if you can. If there are Veterans working in your store, factory or office, recognize them and their service, maybe give them the rest of the day off.

For the rest of us, if you know a veteran, thank him or her on November 11th. If you have a grandfather or uncle who served in World War II or a sister who is back from Iraq, ask them about their service and their experience, listen to their stories, and make them know they are appreciated.

There are dozens of volunteer organizations with thousands of volunteers that support Veterans. They build homes for returning vets, work at VA Hospitals and gather at airports to greet the men and women coming home from a tour of duty. You can find out more about the groups and volunteer here. At the site, teachers can also find out about veterans in their area who can come in and speak to their classes.

Don’t let the real meaning of 11.11.11 get lost in fantasy, for it is very real. There are men and women overseas right now risking their lives in American uniforms. Can’t we give them one day?

One last thing, if you are a veteran, thank you.