I’ll never forget the day, 13 years ago, in 2001, I woke up eager; it was a day of birthday cake and surprises after school. I walked into 4th grade math, started studying when the loud speaker came on and all of my friends were being called out because their parents came to pick them up early. Of course I was young, and I became jealous that all of my friends were able to leave school early, and I was still stuck in school on my birthday. Finally, the end of the day came, and I marched out of school across the playground to my mom and complained that I was basically the only one left in school. She grabbed my hand and said, “Julie, something bad happened today.” She kept it simple and said there are bad people in the world and they chose to do something bad on that day.
When we arrived home from school, my presents were lined up in front of the television, and I remember having the news on, no cartoons that day. My grandparents were there and my family was glued to the news as I unwrapped my presents. I’ll never forget what I got that year either; the cutest purple storage box for all of my dolls accessories; my grandmother always knew what to get me. As I continued to play with my new toys, the news blared in the background. Even through dinner and cake we watched the news. It was a time I will never forget and that birthday will forever stick with me.
Now, many years later, I still receive different reactions when people ask me about my birthday. Of course a small part of me fears the day as it is approaching. There will always be threats in the world, and now that it was happened one, the question remains if it will happen again. If birthdays are ever brought up in conversation, the normal response from others when I bring up my birthday is “Ouch,” or “That’s rough.” Just the other week when I was at the pharmacy, I had to give my birthday to confirm my identity, and the woman looked at me and asked if I ever wanted to change my birthday. I looked up at her with such a confused look because that has never once crossed my mind. I know it was a tragic event, believe me, I knew a family friend who was lost in the towers, but I would never think to change my birthday.
It is not something I have to “cope” with because I celebrate on a tragic day. We need to find the good in tragedy and not fall back on the bad. Yes it was upsetting and it always will be, but it did not leave our memories, we remember it every year and take moments of silence to remember all those who we lost. We then turn around from those sad memories and rejoice. For me, rejoicing is celebrating another year that I was born. I can tell you no celebration is much like it once was before 4th grade because there is a heaviness in the air. It is hard to celebrate another year knowing that someone isn’t able to do that anymore. My birthday, September 11, brings a mix of emotions every year – emotions of sorrow and joy — and as I get older these emotions become easier to control.
For those individuals who react negatively to people telling you that their birthday is on 9/11, don’t react with those phrases putting the person down, react any other way you would for everyone else. Just because our birthday is on 9/11 doesn’t change who we are, it just changes what happened in history. In 1992, my mom didn’t plan for this; heck I was originally due September 1, but was born late.
This is a precious day in history and each year we must remember to rejoice and celebrate and remember. I will always remember my birthday from 4th grade; those moments are seared in my brain and I can say many birthdays before and after that one I cannot remember my gifts that I received as clearly as I can from 2001. We 9/11 babies are no different now than we were before 2001, and I think many people forget that.