"If I get carded or walk into a bank, they kind of look at you and say, 'Oh, I’m so sorry,'" Michael Wright, 44, tells The Awl. Why, you ask? Because Wright is one of the many Americans born on September 11, and he's not that happy about it. Indeed, the increased coverage surrounding the 10th anniversary of the attacks has been occasioned by several collections of the experiences of those whose birthday unfortunately coincides with the tragedy.* From the many 9/11ers interviewed, several strategies arise for approaching the sensitive day. Here's a rundown:
Above all, act humble As Jessica Ford, 35, tells The Awl, "It’s like being born on D-Day. It’s the biggest tragedy we’ve experienced in our lifetime. So I can't say, 'Gosh, I hate that it ruined my birthday.'" That seems appropriate. After all, the coincidence of one's birthday with a tragedy is definitely a smaller deal than having been in any way personally touched by the tragedy. Jotham Sederstrom, 34, recounts moving to New York and treading softly around the longtime city-dwellers for whom the anniversary was particularly painful. "I remember feeling a little bit like a foreigner," he says, "so I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it."
Celebrate on a different day. Barbara Lazer, 58, of Pittsburgh was born on September 11 and has two grandchildren who love to celebrate birthdays, so "we have just moved the date to Sept. 1," she tells USA Today.
Enjoy the fact that your friends can now remember your birthday. "Before it was, 'Hey, isn’t your birthday in September?' And now it's not necessarily people who should know my exact birthday, know it," says Rob Knox, 40, to The Awl. That's certainly a benefit, but as Virginia Heffernan has pointed out in The New York Times, Facebook has made the recall of birthdays so rote, it's easy to remember anyone's special day now, which sort of takes the wind out of the 9/11er's sails.
Find other 9/11 babies and celebrate with them. One enterprising girl, Dahlia Gruen, created a website called birthdayspirit.org after her own birthday was marred by the tragedy. There, others born on the 11th can unite, commiserate, and yes, celebrate. "We wanted to reclaim Sept. 11, and not overlook what happened, but to remember the good that was born on this day too," she tells USA Today. "A one-page website can do so much, and I've connected with many special people. I look forward to each and every e-mail."
Your birthday is a lost cause. Might as well spend the day giving back. Okay so that's a bit more pessimistic a message than this girl is actually touting, but one local Fox news outlet profiles an incredibly selflless Cory McCloskey, who has decided to spend her birthday collecting packages to send to troops overseas. Way to make the rest of us look bad, McCloskey.
Listen to your wise, wise grandma. In December 2011, according to USA Today, Steve and Frances Eatmon wrote a letter to their granddaughter, Taylor Froom, who was born on Sept. 11, 2001: "The day you were born was a day of tragedy and sorrow around the world, but it was a day of miracles. The most important thing that happened to us that day was that you were born." Grandparents are really sweet, and they have a point. Humans, we think, have enough ability to simultaneously respect and honor the horrible tragedy of Sept. 11 and recognize that they can keep the celebration of their birth separate. We think George Spyros said it best: "There's this weird sense of responsibility to celebrate life. I know everyone's hung up with it being about the people who died and mourning. But how do you celebrate someone's life and the meaning it had for those people who died? You double your commitments to living and living life well."
*Full disclosure: I read these reports with perhaps a bit more interest than others since my birthday is coming up on Sunday