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Having September 11th for a birthdate has always been a mixed bag of crap, at least for me. As a kid, we moved every other year, so that meant a new school, no friends and a birthday that fell just after the beginning of the school year.
Every other year, I had no one to invite to a party or a sleep over or even just for cake, so my birthday was usually downgraded to an excuse to go eat at some mediocre fast food joint or if I was really lucky The Sizzler. The Sizzler year will live in infamy.
It was third grade I think.I was also allowed to order whatever I wanted and chose the Surf & Turf combo. I spent the next 3 days vomiting and wishing I was dead. Thanks discount steak house!
As an adult, I had more control over what I did for my birthday and whom I did it with, but it always seemed to have a black cloud hanging over it. Without fail, I would come down with an end of summer cold, or get in a fight with a boyfriend just in time to celebrate my ”special day” alone in bed with red eyes.
I was not faced with the humiliations of new schools and family dinners, so I usually managed to have some small spots of brightness on my birthday, be it a new outfit or drinks with friends. Things were looking up for this Virgo. Then 9/11/2001 came along.
I was working at one of the worst jobs ever: customer service for a major phone company. There is nothing like in-bound hate calls and death threats from angry consumers to make for a terrific work day. So on 9/11, I woke up to get ready deal with the unhappy callers just in time to see the chaos and destruction hitting NY.
I went to work in a fog, worried about those I knew in NY, worried about my brother in the Army, worried about everything. We were lectured prior to starting work that day that we needed to turn the tragedy into a sales opportunity. Just imagine how terrible it would be, we were told, if one of the victim’s loved ones had missed that final phone call due to lack of the latest in wireless technology. Seriously, I was expected to convince angry callers that they needed to add Caller ID and a new cell phone lest they miss that final call from their loved one trapped in a hijacked airplane headed for oblivion.
Needless to say, my birthday was the least of my worries.
I honestly do not remember what was done to commemorate my birthday that year. I just remember being in shock and feeling incredibly sad. Since 2001, September 11th has become the United States’ Ides of March. We are bombarded with a month of TV news stories reflecting on the tragedy of 9/11, detailing the events and discussing where we are with the “War on Terror” today. We hunker down and become paranoid watching for new terror threats. We even avoid flying because of the date on the calendar.
Every year for 10 years now, I am faced with front-page news stories proclaiming my birthday as a day of national mourning. While I understand and respect the rights of people to mourn, cope and recover in their own way the media goes way overboard and milks this one date for all it is worth.
I fully realize the intense pain that those who've lost family members must be reliving. My own brother was in the army and served in Iraq; 10 years later he is going back to Afghanistan. The events of 9/11/01 are still effecting my family and the media circus once a year trivializes the ongoing sacrifice made by people nationwide. I just want to reclaim this day for anyone who once was able to have it as a day of personal joy, be it a birthday or anniversary.
This year, as I face turning 43, I am determined as ever to have a swell day, but the fates are plotting against me. Boyfriend: going to be out of town on a motorcycle trip. Work pals: need to wait for the next weekend, aka pay day, to celebrate with me. Family dinner: totally out of the question for numerous reasons. (This may be the highlight of my birthday.)
The list of roadblocks goes on and I don’t want this to turn into a complete pity party, even if it is as close to a party as I get.
Perhaps I will treat myself to a nice bottle of something intoxicating and curl up with a really bad movie or six.
Or maybe I will say “to hell with everybody” and go party like the rock star I am the other 364 days of the year. If I do not have an amazing day, then the terrorists win and I, as a red-blooded American Patriot, cannot allow that to happen.