9/11 is a day that every American recognizes. From annual news specials on television to first-hand accounts read at school, there are constant reminders of that fateful day. I grew up as many other kids born in the early 2000s. We would learn about different tragedies happening to individuals that day, which contributed to a greater tragedy concerning all Americans. When people ask when my birthday is, they respond one of two ways: they act like it’s normal and try to keep a straight face without showing pity, or they face it head on and express their condolences as if I lost someone in the event. I always wait to see which reaction they give, leading to a peek into their personality. At least it is a conversation starter.
In first grade we had an assignment to go home and research something that happened on our birthday. Because I was a 7 year-old who was quite ignorant to the actual events of that day but just thought it was a “bad day.” I went home so excited to see if I could find something good that happened on my birthday. I asked my mom to help me, and she was clearly hesitant about the assignment. Nonetheless, she agreed to look into it with me. She expected to have to file through a lot of articles on 9/11, but she thought that surely we could find something positive. However, besides several celebrities being born that day, we found nothing. I started crying and asked why we couldn’t find anything, and she had no answers for me.
In fifth grade we went on a school field trip to Washington D.C. I was so excited to see the White House– all of the famous monuments and especially the Smithsonian. When we got to the Newseum, I was thrilled to see the display of a real newsdesk and other objects that were famously stored there. However, the visit darkened when we spent thirty minutes of the tour at the 9/11 exhibit. The walls were covered in the original headlines for the event from that day. There was also a piece of one of the towers placed in the middle standing several stories high. I started to get upset, and I told my mom. She asked the tour guide and teachers if we could go someplace else just so I wouldn’t have to endure it as long as the others did. She has never shielded me from it, but I already knew many of the details, and she thought she might as well save the day of wonder in D.C. if she could. She had shown me films, documentaries, and short films so I could be informed that it wasn’t a “bad day” for no reason.
In seventh grade, we watched a livestream of people affected by 9/11 giving speeches in Washington D.C. I remember trying to hold the tears back as I finally broke down and ran to the bathroom. One of my friends in the grade above me came into the bathroom and asked if I was okay. She believed me when I said I had bad allergies, and I was left in peace even though I have never had seasonal allergies. It was on that day that I realized how unfortunate it was that I was crying on my birthday. I realized that I would probably cry on every birthday after that. I had cried before on my birthday for the same reason, but I never really thought about the fact that I would be dealing with this for the rest of my life.
I would like you to notice, yourself, on that day listening to stories on the radio or researching the news coverage. Then, I would like you to imagine that it was your birthday. I am deprived in a way that birthdays are meant to be–days that you can be completely narcissistic and have everything centered around you. However, I always feel an obligation to not make it about me. I feel an obligation to make it about anything but me. My birthday is a day when millions of people suffered the devastation caused by outside forces to our homeland. My birthday is a day when brothers lost sisters and sisters lost brothers. My birthday is an annual day of flag lowering and prayer throughout the nation. My birthday is a reminder of disaster, loss, and hopelessness.
I am not trying to throw a pity party through this article. Clearly, the actual events and stories that happened on that day were far worse than anything that has affected me. Everyone should know about what happened, why it happened, and how to prevent it from happening again. I am thankful, in a way, that it is my birthday because it grounds me in reality. It is an annual reminder that if we want this world to be a better place, it starts right here at home. It is tough, and I have taken off from school on my birthday at times to just get away from it. Luckily, my friends and family are incredibly sympathetic and try to make it as happy as it can be. I am writing this to explain my experience and acknowledge an annual phenomenon on that day besides the one we all know. If you ever meet anyone born on 9/11, all we want from you is a happy birthday wish and a smile. Any little moment of positivity on that day brightens our day to be brighter than the last. I aspire to make each birthday better than the last. I try to inject it with as much positivity as the laws of physics can bestow. I will, hopefully, be experiencing it for a long time, after all.