It’s what I say right after anyone asks me when my birthday is, or looks at my ID or I turn in a prescription at the pharmacy. Casually they say, “Date of Birth?” and I say “9/11”. And then wait for the eye contact or the moment when they want to talk about what they did that day and expect me to say something profound. I usually shrug and laugh. What can I say?
“Nope. I’ll never forget that day.”
I woke up in my apartment in State College, PA my senior year of college anticipating the birthday party that my friends had in store for me that evening. I stretched my arms and flipped on the television. I found the same movie on every channel… a smoking World Trade Center tower. Kept flipping channels, saw the second plane hit and then I realized that it was real. That this was happening. I got out of bed and went into the hallway where my roommates were all stepping out too to see if we all were seeing the same thing. Megan had a sister in Manhattan and we were immediately trying to get in touch with her. We wouldn’t hear from her for almost 4 hours. She was fine.
That day was also our career fair. It was the only day that semester that employers would line the halls of the Bryce Jordan Center to help us find our future. My friends and I all put on our suits and wandered down there. Most of the employers were missing because all of the flights were grounded, but it didn’t matter. They wouldn’t have any jobs for us anyway. This marked the beginning of what was the demise of any hopes of decent careers post graduation. Most of my friends graduating that year would be jobless and moving home with their parents. Our years of hard work and dollars spent were worth next to nothing.
We gathered around the TV with the guys that lived down the street whom I’d orginally befriended freshman year in the dorms. We watched as the news anchors tried to make sense of what had happened. Occasionally someone would look over at me with sad eyes and sympathetically (and sarcastically) say, “Happy Birthday…” Truth is, I really didn’t care. Who would’ve?
Two days later, Sept. 13th, we ventured out for another friend’s birthday. The crowd at our weekly Thursday spot, The Saloon, was happy to be in each others company, to get out from watching the horror unfold on the television and acknowledge that we were probably going to be okay.
Now, every year on my birthday I avoid the television and internet and I make it my day. I’m kind to myself, I take the day off, I have coffee with friends. On the 10 year anniversary, I stood on the Cliffs of Mohr on a rainy day in Ireland and thanked God for the opportunity to breathe the ocean air. My birthday is a yearly event for my closest friends to be reminded of the tragedy, but kindly turn their thoughts toward me and anyone else with a birthday on that day and call, shoot them a text or post on their Facebook page. Seems shallow, yes, but maybe it’s just a break from the weight of something people still can’t wrap their heads around.
I’m heading to Philly to spend the weekend with the friends that I sat with in front of a television with 13 years ago. They’re still my favorite people. Penn Staters. We’ve seen it all in the past 15 years. My friends who sat with me in front of the TV have since helped design NFL stadiums, they’re eye doctors, they create ad campaigns for internationally recognized products that you’ve probably never heard of… “Trident” and “Oreos”, they’ve created drugs that fucking stop cancer! We paused for a moment and then hit the ground running. Sure, if we ever would’ve come face to face with those assholes, we would’ve given them swirlies immediately. But, we’ve overcome.
So, I wish I had a profound statement the many, many times a month that someone hears that my birthday is Sept 11th. But, I just don’t think that the villians of that day deserve anymore tragedy on account of them. I celebrate my day with peacefulness, love and smiles. Take that, assholes.
So, yep. My birthday is September 11th. You probably won’t forget that day either.