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Celebrating a September 11 Birthday

By sandymaple |

september 11 birthday cake american flag

Should you celebrate a September 11 birthday?

This year, as with every year since the September 11 terrorist attacks, my child’s school will honor the memory of those who were killed by dressing in red, white and blue and observing a moment of silence.  This scene will be played out in schools all over the country as we try to collectively come to terms with the horror of that day.

But one thing that won’t be happening in her class today is a birthday celebration for a boy who turns ten tomorrow.  While I am sure his teacher would happily pass out cupcakes to mark the occasion, his mother says he prefers not to draw attention to the fact that his birthday falls on the same date that so many of his classmates lost friends and family members in the tragedy.

My child’s classmate was just a baby on September 11, 2001, but he understands the significance of the day and feels uncomfortable celebrating his birthday because of it.  And he’s not alone.  Many people with September 11 birthdays say they prefer to keep a low profile and avoid making a big deal out of the day they were born.

It’s one thing for an adult to forgo birthday celebrations on September 11.  But what about for a child who was born on that date?  Is it wrong to celebrate a child’s birth on a day when so many people died?  Of course it isn’t wrong.  But it is understandably hard to feel joyful amid so much  pain.

The fact that my child’s classmate feels so uneasy about acknowledging the date he was born makes me feel very sad for him.  And it also makes me angry that something as beautiful as the celebration of a child’s birth will forever be overshadowed by something as ugly as what happened on September 11.

Lots of bad things have happened throughout American history, but this particular event is unique in that it is known by the date on which it happened.  And if that date happens to also be your child’s birthday?  Well, I hope you’ll celebrate.

Image: ben dalton/Flickr

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0 thoughts on “Celebrating a September 11 Birthday

  1. jennifer says:

    I’m a little perplexed about the issue being discussed here. I would say 75% of the days on the calendar you could point back to a horrendous event in history and perhaps feel bad (or make your children feel bad…?) that a birthday falls on that date. Heck, I just looked up my own birthday on Wikipedia and found that while it was a good day in 1962, with astronaut John Glenn successfully orbiting the earth, it was a sad day in 2003 when an accident at a Great White concert killed 100 people and injured 200 more. The loss of human life was great on 9/11, and the implications to our country far-reaching, but in general one person’s memorable day – birthday, anniversary, etc. – is another person’s memorial date for somebody special to them.

    For school age children that are still bringing cupcakes to school, most of them were probably not even born when 9/11 took place. I totally recognize the importance of informing kids what happened on that day, and observing the moment of silence recognized as part of Patriot Day, but crap — life goes on. What a perfect way to recognize that fact by celebrating a child’s birthday, a joyous event, on the same day as the school discusses a sad event from the past. I would feel just awful if I made my kid feel bad or apologetic about his birthday being on a certain day, particularly in relation to an event he probably doesn’t fully understand at his age.

  2. Mari says:

    While I understand that on many “days on the calendar” you can find some negative event in history, this particular date is specially infamous. It is understandable for people to pause and hesitate when it comes to celebrating anything on Sept. 11th, it’s still very fresh. Many of us have vivid memories of that horrendous day and yes, some people might say “life goes on”, but I’m sure the victim’s families grieve nonetheless as if it just happened yesterday. It is this thought (about the victim’s families) that drives those who have celebrations on the date to have feelings of guilt -for lack of a better word-.
    This date will be linked to tragedy always but like Dec. 7th, perhaps time will lessen the vividness of the memories.

  3. jennifer says:

    @Mari – That you reference the 9/11 victims’ families in terms of feeling raw grief and perhaps not being in the “life goes on” camp strengthens my point to some degree. For ALL tragic events where there is a loss of life, the victims’ families are surely the ones that will take the longest to heal. They will be the ones to remember the exact date of a tragedy long after the rest of us have forgotten the specifics of an event.

    In the previous article on this topic on Strollerderby (linked to above), there are interviews with adults who felt uncomfortable having a birthday on 9/11. That is understandable, as they directly experienced the events, and may take pause in sending out a party invite to celebrate 9/11 with them. In this article, it was stated that the child’s mom, not the child, felt uncomfortable serving cupcakes at school on that day. I just feel it is unfair to make a child who did not experience 9/11 or may not understand how horrible it was to somehow feel guilty that his/her birthday happens to fall on that particular day.

  4. Amanda says:

    My daughter was born on Sept. 11, 2006. I still have birthday parties for her. I still take cupcakes into her preschool (although this year we did it on th 10th, since the 11th fell on a Sat.). I will not let my child suffer and look at her birthday as a sad day. It wasn’t her fault, mine or anyone elses that she was born on 9/11. I want her to experience life the way any other child would. I am a history teacher so she will definitely know what happened on her birthday. I plan on subtly remembering 9/11 by dressing us all in red, white and blue and having a remembrence candle on her birthday cake. But her red, white and blue on her dress is red, white and blue birthday balloons and the remembrence candle is shaped like tinkerbell. Why, well because sh is turning 4. I want her to think of her birthday as a day where although a sad and horrible event occured, a wonderful beautiful person was born.

  5. Black Sheep says:

    I don’t think it is JUST that the attacks occurred on that date, but that the actual event is referred to BY the date. For example, December 7th is known as the anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, but it isn’t called “12/7.” I think that is part of the stress of having a birthday on 9/11. Incidentally, I have tried to think back to when everybody started calling the attacks “9/11″, rather than “the terrorist attacks” but I kow it was within the first year. I remember thinking, “Oh this is so gonna suck for people who have a birthday that day.” Maybe we should come up with a different name?

  6. Amanda says:

    Put it this way. When I think of September 11, the first thing to come to my mind isn’t the tragic event of 9/11/01. I think it is my child’s birthday. Can anyone blame me for that. She is the most important thing that has ever happened to me, so why should her and my special day be overshadowed by what happened on that day prior to when she was born. The 9/11/01 events are important and historic to the world, but what happened on 9/11/06 is more important and historic to me and my family. I will not have my child thinking of the day of her birth as a horrible or sad day. She should feel happy that it is her birthday just like everyone else feels happy when it is their birthday.

  7. K says:

    Of course it’s important to be respectful of vitims’ families on 9/11, but surely victims’ families wouldn’t object to a child celebrating their birthday on the day that it ocurred. My friends held a baby shower for my family yesterday; is it better to keep 9/11 a solemn day of mourning until it fades into a date that no one can actually remember (like Pearl Harbor Day), or to spend the day celebrating new life and joy, grateful for our friends and family?

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