9/11 is my birthday, and in 2001, I had taken the day off to relax and sleep in and have a fun day. I woke up right at 8:00 and turned on CNN. I saw scenes of people running and smoke billowing, and it was obvious that everything was out of control in the newsroom. Nobody had yet realized that the first tower had collapsed, and it took them what seemed like at least 10 minutes to actually get back to the story and say what had actually happened. It was just scenes of people running and the tower on fire, and the scrawl at the bottom said “Border between US and Mexico closed”. I was left wondering: “What? Mexico attacked us?!” for around 10 minutes before somebody at CNN thought to change the scrawl and start reporting again on the earlier events, because in the next few minutes, the other plane hit while I was watching. I will say that I was happy to be home and safe on that day, but I’m not sure if I’m happy to have been seeing all of that live.
Of course, now every year as my birthday approaches, I hear the “seven years ago today” stuff, and it’s worse this year, of course, as I knew it would be, because it is the 10th anniversary. I was always particularly happy with my birthdate, since my mother and I share the same birthday (I was born on her 21st birthday), but now the date is forever entwined with something else. I realize that it’s infinitely trivial to feel that my birthday has been ruined, when so many people lost so much more, but I can’t help the way I feel about it. Christmas and Easter and Thanksgiving and all the other days of celebration belong to everybody. The one day of the year that was “mine” is now seen as a tragedy, and it’s almost embarrassing to want to celebrate on that day.
Of course, I’m not the only person who feels this way; Anna Quindlen wrote an essay about having a child with a September 11th birthday. Like her son, I still get the response “Really?” when an operator on the phone or somebody at the DMV asks for my birthdate, and the comment is usually accompanied by a commiserating look or an awkward silence. So when you see me sitting on a patio this Sunday having a margarita and doing my best to have a great time, you should know that I’m doing it with a hellbent can’t-let-the-terrorists-win fervor!