Seven years after the shit hit the fan, I’m still sifting through the “Never Forget” bulletins. It’s occurred to me that I may never truly wrap my mind around what happened to the victims of 9/11 and their families. My heart goes out to them, and to another group deeply affected by that darkest day in our nation’s history, those who have perhaps been most forgotten, who’s sacrifice may seem trivial, but who have lost something nonetheless.
I’m talking about people whose birthdays are on September 11. That just has to suck.
Imagine it’s September 11, 2001. You’re a young man, just turning 21. About 11 a.m. the phone rings.
“Oh, hi Mom… Yeah, I see it on TV right now. I’ve been watching it all morning… They canceled classes today so, I mean, at least there’s something. For the first time ever I haven’t been stuck in school on my…. What’s that? Yeah, I agree. Terrible, absolutely horrific. Buzz Kill City. I think I might have to turn this off, maybe take a nap, get my mind off things, you know, before tonight… Yeah, it does make me think our time here is short. That’s why, you know, carpe diem — gotta live it up while you can, especially when you turn… What? Yes, mom, I love you, too…. Is there anything else you want to say?…. Oh, dad wants to talk to me. OK….
“Hi Dad… Yeah, I saw that. Terrible, absolutely horrif– Yes. Yes… I couldn’t agree with you more. This truly is a day to remember. What could possibly be more memorable than these grisly events unfolding before our eyes on television, these ghastly occurrences involving people we’ve never met in a city we’ve never been to?… Yes, if memory serves, Cousin Doris, whom I’ve met once, does live in New York, but I think she’s just outside Ithaca, more upstate, not so much downtown Manhattan where this horrendous catastrophe is occurring on this very day of September 11… Oh? Well, yeah, if you want to call and check on Cousin Doris, you should go ahead and do that. Thanks for calling.”
You put the phone down and begin to process, perhaps for the first time in your life, that your birthday is now and forever just another day. In light of the day’s news, even your parents can forge– Wait, the phone’s ringing!
“Hello? Oh, hi Dad!.. Why are you sorry?… What did you forget to say?… Oh. Yeah, I love you, too. No, it’s not weird, it’s just… No, don’t worry that you don’t say it enough. You don’t have to tell me. I know… OK, bye.”
Man, fuck Mom and Dad! It’s not like you’re a little kid anymore. You don’t need cakes and clowns and shit. You’re a man. You’re going out for copious amounts of alcohol tonight with your buddies. As a Virgo, you were always the youngest kid in your class and you’re the last of your social circle to enjoy this rite of passage into adulthood. Your friends know what day it is. They won’t let you down. The phone rings again.
“Happy birthday, dude.”
“Are you seeing this shit on TV?”
“Yeah, it’s terrible. Absolutely horrific.”
“Yeah, so uh… You still wanna go out tonight?”
“Oh, ’cause me and Dave were thinking, there probably won’t be that many girls out, so maybe we should, like, reschedule and stuff.”
“Reschedule? No way! I requested tomorrow off from work, and I had to do that two months ago. We’re going out!”
And several hours later, you’re at a bar with your friends. You’ve got the whole place to yourself except for that old guy in the corner who’s working a crossword puzzle. You knew you’d be drinking heavily, but just to get everyone to loosen up and smile, you had to plow through three or four Jager-bombs first. And you felt a little awkward saying “bomb” to the bartender. Dude was right, not a girl in the place, but who cares? You’re with your buddies and you’re finally having a good time. You guys are laughing and carrying on and getting a little loud. The old guy looks up from his crossword puzzle.
“Why don’t you show some respect? Assholes!”
Flash forward to two days ago. You’re sick of the dark spectre of terrorism overshadowing your day. And you’re sick of feeling guilty about being sick of it. You tell your buddy this. He’s not sympathetic.
“Dude, not everything is about you!”
“No, not everything is about me, but I used to have one day! One fucking day a year that was mine and those fucking assholes had to go and hijack some planes and turn this country upside down on my fucking day! And I’m never going to get my fucking day back, because every year when my day rolls around everyone’s all bummed out and shit! My day is everyone else’s day!”
“I know what you’re going through, man. I mean, my birthday is on Veteran’s Day.”
“No! No! Fuck you! No! That is not even the same fucking thing! No one gives a shit about your day! No one even knows what it means! Veteran’s Day — What the fuck is that?”
“It commemorates Germany’s surrender from World War II.”
“World War I, asshole!”
“Oh right, because they signed the armistice on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year.”
“No, not the eleventh year, dipshit. World War I didn’t end until 1918 or something like that. See, you don’t even know what it means and it’s your day! And every year you got the day off school for it!”
“But I don’t get my birthday cards until the 12th, because the post office is closed. Maybe you should consider celebrating on a different day.”
“No, fuck you. And fuck Osama Bin Laden! It’s my day!… And who put these goddamn skyscraper-shaped candles on my cake!”
This blog is in memory of my friend Kent’s birthday, which is actually on September 9th, and I forgot.