Out of 365 possible dates in the non-leap-year calendar, my birthday falls on just about the worst one for Americans.
Nope, not Tax Day – it’s 9/11. And as this column is published, I’ll be navigating for the 18th year in a row how to celebrate my birthday on the anniversary of the deadliest homeland attack in modern U.S. history.
When I was writing this column, I asked my mom what it was like to celebrate my birthday on Sept. 11, 2001. Since I was just turning 2 that day, I don’t have any of my own memories.
She said that year, my birthday fell on a weekday, so we had officially celebrated it the weekend before – thank goodness. But 2 is a pretty big milestone, so my mom said she still held a small get-together with immediate family on the day of the attacks.
“It was unusual because we were celebrating your life but everyone was still feeling scared and upset because of what had happened,” she told me.
And I guess that pretty much sums up my experience. On a day when the whole country is supposed to be grieving and remembering the lives lost, people give me presents and sing “Happy Birthday.”
In my early childhood, I remember the day would always be dominated by talk about 9/11 at school and on the news. People often speculated that another large-scale attack could happen on the anniversary.
I always dreaded the discussion because, as a selfish and naive kid who didn’t personally remember the attacks, I just wanted to celebrate my birthday. Everyone is supposed to have their own special day, right?
As the conversation surrounding 9/11 seems to have shifted from current events to modern history, I’ve grown to understand the devastation and loss faced on that day and in the War on Terror. That’s led me to feel a bit uncomfortable celebrating on my actual birthday.
But writing this column also got me thinking that there’s probably something terrible that has happened on every one of our birthdays, and that doesn’t make it wrong to celebrate. Maybe a celebration takes your mind off the bad and makes the day a little easier.
Having an untimely birthday obviously can’t come close to the pain felt by those who lost loved ones on 9/11 and in the war that followed.
Nearly 3,000 people died in the Twin Tower attacks, and a recent report from Brown University estimates at least 480,000 people have died in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as a result of violence in the War on Terror. More than 244,000 of those are civilians.
I certainly am not writing this column to make light of that tremendous loss, but rather to share an interesting insight into my life and to show others that some of us were dealt terrible birthdays.
My sister, whose birthday falls on Jan. 1, might tell you her birthday is even worse. Or maybe ask my aunt, who was born on Christmas Eve, about how she’s never gotten separate presents for her birthday. I guess it’s all about perspective.