On Birthdays and Tragedies
Reflections of a girl born on September 11th.
My birthday coincides with a national day of mourning. It’s September 11th. Born in 1992, and not one of the 13,000 Americans born on the exact infamous date, I was in the fourth grade celebrating my 9th birthday in 2001. That night as we ate cake and opened presents as a family, instead of sitting around a dinner table, we sat mesmerized by the television as we watched the worst day in modern American history unfold.
Naturally, many people comment when they see my birth date. There are the ‘I’m sorrys” , “That’s unfortunate”, “How tragic”, and the poorly conceived jokes about “really blowing out the candles” for my birthday. Recently, one person told me they were glad that their child was born in the wee hours of the 12th, instead of on the 11th. What irks me are the remorseful comments. I understand the sentiment, as having a festive celebration on a day marked by depravity sees unlikely, nonetheless the sympathies seem ill fitting. My birthday is September 11th, yet the September 11th terrorist attacks are not the same thing as my birthday. And as someone who was not directly affected by the attacks,extending sympathy due to a coincidence in dates and an image of having to eat cake sad, feels wrong when there are thousands who grapple every day with the tragedy of the event. Also, telling me you’re sorry implies that I must feel bad and hate my birthday. I think my defacto response will now be, “Well, I don’t feel guilty about soaking up a few happy moments on September 11th to acknowledge that I’ve managed to stay alive in the maddening and unpredictable world another year.”
But it’s true 9/11 birthdays need to be approached with certain sensitivities not privy to other dates. A weekend bash in New York would be tasteless. While my birthday was never my favorite day of the year, for those whom it is, responding that September 11 is their favorite day of the year will always sound inelegant. I’ve been asked how one celebrates a 9/11 birthday, and the answer is, typically the same as any other date. Celebrations still occur just as people continue to go to work, attend school, and laugh and live on every continued September 11th. Tragedy can be reflected on while still experiencing other emotions on the same day. And maybe there are few days better to remember that life continues, then on September 11th.