Memorial Day: The surprising story of the National Moment of Remembrance and the kids who inspired it

National News

The National Moment of Remembrance, often accompanied by a rendition of “Taps,” was first officially established in 2000. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) — Will you be observing the National Moment of Remembrance?

On May 31, Americans will be honoring the brave men and women of the U.S. military who lost their lives in service to this country. Many will be marking the day by reflecting on the sacrifices those veterans made, while also celebrating their lives at backyard gatherings or barbecues. But some will also pause to partake in the National Moment of Remembrance, which occurs at precisely 3:00 p.m. every Memorial Day.

The National Moment of Remembrance is a relatively new event, having first been established in 2000 to raise awareness of — “and respect for” — the meaning of Memorial Day, according to the National Moment of Remembrance Act.  

The catalyst for the idea, however, came roughly four years earlier, when a group of schoolchildren on a tour of Lafayette Park in Washington D.C. were asked what Memorial Day means to them.

“That’s the day the pools open,” the kids allegedly responded.

Soon afterward, a humanitarian group known as No Greater Love made it part of their mission to “put ‘memorial’ back in Memorial Day,” according to an archived White House fact sheet.

Spearheaded by Carmella LaSpada, the founder of No Greater Love, the National Moment of Remembrance was first observed by President Clinton and select members of Congress in 1997. In the years that followed, the National Moment of Remembrance was observed at multiple Memorial Day events across the country at precisely 3 p.m. local time (and usually accompanied by a rendition of “Taps”).

Then, in December 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance was officially put into law.

“The relevance of Memorial Day must be made more apparent to present and future generations of people of the United States through local and national observances and ongoing activities,” wrote Congress when establishing the Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance in 2000.

Now, every Memorial Day, Americans are encouraged to share a solemn moment of silence at 3 p.m. — “a time of day when most Americans are likely making the most of the freedoms we enjoy,” according to a White House fact sheet — before resuming the day’s activities. To that end, Major League Baseball games come to a halt at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day, and even NASCAR has observed the National Moment of Remembrance during a major event, albeit not always at the same moment on Memorial Day weekend.

MLB National Moment of Remembrance Memorial Day 2018
Players for the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles observe a National Moment of Remembrance at Camden Yards on May 28, 2018 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

“One could say that we must not make Memorial Day about sales at stores, hot dogs and hamburgers, fireworks and the start of the summer season,” writes No Greater Love in its history of the National Moment of Remembrance. “Yet, the simplicities of American life and the freedom to live the American way are exactly why our men and women shed their blood.”

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