D.O.B. 9/11

Hello. Today is my birthday.

Which means your knee-jerk response is probably something like, oh, Happy birthday, Liz! But as I’ve come to learn, a few seconds later, a certain realization will strike and you’ll add: Oh wait, today? Oh. Ohhhhhhhh….wow. Wow. Okay. Wow.

I’ve had five years to get used to it and I’m still not used to it. I don’t know if I ever will be.

When you have a 9/11 birthday, especially in New York City, there is no chance of escaping discussion about The Day and what you were doing on The Day and how it feels to have a birthday on The Day.

Those born on the other 364 days a year (with perhaps a few exceptions) take for granted that they can offhandedly spout off their dates of birth with little discussion. You can tell the Bank of America rep confirming your identity, you can tell the Hertz counter agent, you can tell the ultrasound technician–when asked– that you were born on February 10th or October 19th with little ado. Me? I need an aside.

September 11th. Crazy, right?

September 11th. Yeah, I know.

September 11th. Bet you’ll never forget THAT one, huh.

September 11th…oh, you don’t say? Your boss’ sister-in-law too? What are the chances?

Of course losing “my day” is wholly insignificant in comparison with what other people lost on that day. To complain about it seems selfish. Trivial. Stupid. But I can’t help but reflect on my own feelings about it.

I always looked forward to my birthdays, even as an adult when it no longer meant pancakes for dinner or trips to Rye Playland. I never dreaded aging, never mourned passage of another year. And so, I celebrated September 11 with gusto–days off from work; personal spa days; six long restaurant tables pushed together to accommodate too many drunken friends. And a cake. Always a cake. With no fruit in it, just the way I like it.

I groused that I was in possession of an American Airlines ticket, JFK to LAX, on my birthday five years ago. I didn’t want to fly across the coast for a meeting, despite the promise of celebratory cocktails with coworkers on the other side. Didn’t my clients know it was MY day? Shouldn’t I be excused from work on MY day?

The answer was a resounding no.

And so, I packed my bag that morning, received a few birthday phone calls from family, and dashed out for a last minute bagel to eat on the plane, all while gazing up at that glorious, perfect, cloudless blue sky.

Then the world fell apart.

The small terrace off my tenth floor Greenwich Village apartment until that day had been my happy place. It opened from my bedroom with two exquisite if unfortunately painted French doors, and if at my urging you dared to lean far enough over the Christopher Street side railing, I would joke, “look! River view!” The perimeter was uneven and jagged, with odd patches of matted astroturf poking out from the blacktop, and a drain hole that clogged with potting soil and the discarded Camels of an inconsiderate neighbor with the next terrace up. Once, I gathered a dozen of those cigarette butts in a baggie, and marched them up to his apartment. I sprinkled that pile of disgusting, moldy, yellowed butts across his welcome mat alongside a handwritten note: I think you left these at my place.

Laughably narrow, my terrace could host myself and one friend comfortably, two if we all turned sideways in our chairs, perhaps four if we gave up our chairs altogether and leaned along the rusted, rickety railing. It was on that balcony I planted indigo Lobelia in early Spring, watching it crisp from sun and inattention by July. It was there I sunbathed alone with the Times crossword on Sunday mornings, enjoying the rare weekend off from work. It was there I toasted sunsets with friends, made out with The Wrong Men, read and wrote and dreamed and fabricated stories about the people living behind the brownstone windows below.

Then in 2001 the terrace became the place where I watched black smoke billow from the jagged gashes in those towers I had loved. Where I fielded phone calls from friends and family who must have hit redial a hundred times each to get a line through to New York. Where I stupidly set up a telescope to watch “the rescue mission,” only to instead find shadowy figures waving frantically from behind windows they’d never see the other side of. And where, finally, I saw those towers crumble to the ground. Just crumble. With no advance warning from a newscaster, no heads up, no hey Liz, you might want to sort of close your eyes because here comes the scary part.

My only reaction was to scream, same as everyone, then to repeat unbelievingly into the phone to my friend Caroline, Oh my God it’s gone. It’s gone. It’s gone. It’s not there. It’s gone. It’s just gone. It’s just gone. It’s not there. It’s gone.

Shut the doors, she told me. Get off the terrace and shut the doors and put a rolled up wet towel under the doors, NOW. You don’t know what’s in that smoke.

And that’s when I lost it.

There’s more I could write about, about the days that ensued–the warzone my neighborhood became, the random people sobbing in the street, the haze of acrid holocaust smoke that hovered in the air for months, the bomb threats, the subway evacuations, the way we all slept with our sneakers on and a bag packed next to the bed on so we could escape at a moment’s notice. But it’s depressing me. And I’m supposed to be happy. Remember, my birthday? Happy birthday to me. Yippee.

My father offered to make his way down from midtown to my apartment on foot to celebrate my birthday that night. Of course I refused; his offer alone was gift enough.

2002 was too soon to do anything too celebratory. It seemed disrespectful. Like dancing on someone’s grave.

But in 2003 I tried to follow the advice of friends: It’s time. Don’t watch the news. Don’t look at the paper. Just try to enjoy the day and enjoy your birthday again.

And so I tried.

I had invited a dozen friends to dinner at a local restaurant. They all seemed genuinely happy to be there, away from the television, away from the makeshift memorials on the sidewalks outside. But while my guests downed bottles of Pinot Noir, I was getting familiar with the grooves of the bathroom floor tiles that punched into my knees, as I hunched, sweaty and shaking, over a toilet and dry heaved all the food I never ate that day. When finally I made my way back into the dining room, I managed a weak grin in the direction of the table of gay men next to us who cheered, you go girl! You take back that birthday! Whoo! But deep down, I just couldn’t. I regretted the plans, my optimism, my desire to host and smile and entertain and open gifts and pretend like everything was just hunky-dory. It felt wrong.

And that’s when I stopped celebrating. At least in any way that bore resemblance to years past.

I make work appointments now. I schedule phone calls. I try not to think in advance about the fact that it’s my birthday. The anxiety provoked by the possibility of having anxiety about it stops me. A small dinner with family is as much as I can handle–no one to have to apologize profusely to on the chance that the shakiness comes back and I cancel en route to the restaurant.

But each year I get just a little stronger. Just a little more able to face the day. And each year–gratuitious ratings-grabbing tv “news” tributes not withstanding–things get more normal too.

The dozens of cards and calls and emails I received a few years back have whittled back down to a number closer to the pre-2001 days. The people who would “never forget that birthday again” have, indeed, forgotten. And I find absolute joy in that. It seems to me that as people resume their lives, they no longer need to send me birthday wishes as a way to inject a small bit of happiness into their days. The happiness is there on its own. In fact, one of the things I most look forward to is a friend who to this day wishes me happy birthday on the 12th. She has done so ever since she met me, and she still does so now. And the best part is, it’s absolutely unintentional. She just can’t remember 9/11.

God, I love that.

So tonight, it’s the low key dinner with Nate and my dad at the best little old school Italian restaurant in midtown. It’s the kind frequented by less by hipsters and more by bluehaired Ladies Who Lunch, the ones who still remember the days that they used to see Jackie O there sipping Perrier after a morning plundering Bloomingdale’s. It’s also the home of the best fettucini alfredo this side of the Colliseum and lord, if you can’t eat that stuff on your birthday, when can you?

With every 6,000 calorie forkful not even counting the grated parmagiano-reggiano on top (Keep going. Keep going. Keep going…yeah, thaaaaaat’s it…) I will be happy. Surrounded by a few people who love me and expect nothing of me except to act surprised when the cake comes out with a candle on top, I will be happy.

Knowing there’s no fruit in that cake, I will be happy.


128 thoughts on “D.O.B. 9/11”

  1. A bad sad thing happened on my birthday – a personal/familial loss, nothing like 9-11 was to our country, however, I’ve always felt my day was jinxed. And as an avid celebrator of holidays and birthdays, I always forced myself to celebrate it no matter what.It’s your day and it is your city. No one can take either from you. Reclaim it however you must – though you and it have both changed, there’s still joy to be had.

  2. I came by to wish you a happy birthday, my fellow Virgo. Yes, I know your birthday falls on the same day as a terrible tragedy. But it’s still your birthday and I’m still hoping it will be special despite the very sad baggage that now accompanies it. It’s not that I don’t respect the seriousness of what transpired five years ago on 9/11 because I do. But I also want to celebrate those who are still here. Happy birthday 🙂{{{hugs}}}

  3. Happy Birthday, Liz. Today is my grandmother’s birthday, too. And the day before my grandfather died. She told me a year or two before, that she always felt sorry for people who’s birthday fell on December 7th, and she was so glad that I was born on the 8th–and now look–her own birthday falls on an even more tragic day.

  4. Thanks for sharing, Liz. You have such a unique perspective with the birthday connection and living so close to everything.

  5. Happy Birthday, Liz, and welcome home! That was beautifully written. Sending you good vibes for a good day.

  6. Happy Birthday and Wow. You blow me away with your insight and talent and of course, once again with this beautiful post I found myself not surprised that your birthday is 9/11. I always think that extraordinary people must have extraordinary birthdays and 9/11 is indeed the day everything changed. A day of life and death. A day of normal days and insane ones. A day of endings and beginnings. There is so much joy in the rebirth and coming together of people who love something with all of their hearts, even after it has crumbled. Like New York City. And like you. Many birthday hugs dot com. Love.

  7. Happy Birthday, deserving of both capital letters. And if you could, please kiss my city’s beautiful, peaceful blue skies for a birthday wish.

  8. Happy birthday – I hope you eat something really great, and get many many kisses, and dance late into the night.Fabulous thing about good friends and family – that little circle can be as small as you make it, blocking out all the rest of the world, and centering you as their star to orbit around.

  9. Happy Birthday….. What consideration you have. In my opinion, I do not think anyone who died in the Towers would want you to give up your birthday. Life and continuation need to be celebrated to make us heal.

  10. Happy Birthday and enjoy your day, you deserve it. It is hard when those happy occasions collide with those not so happy ones, but that is no reason not to celebrate. My brother was born on April 29, 1975, and my mom has never forgotten the collision of those two events. But it has made my brother’s birthday no less special.

  11. I don’t know what it’s like at all, but older people always comment when they learn that Maya’s birthday is December 7th. My grandpa even asked me why I couldn’t have held her in a few more hours, you know like 6. Enjoy it anyway, you definetly deserve it. Happy Birthday.

  12. Each day is full of tragedy and joy. There is a time to remember, a time to be solemn, and a time to celebrate. Have a wonderful birthday, Liz.

  13. Happy Birthday, Liz. I hope that it gets easier to celebrate it on this day as the years pass.

  14. Happy birthday to you and everyone else who shares it with you. Personally, I know of a few who do. It will get easier over time. Trust me. My birthday is D Day and sixty years after the fact, I can honestly say that it does get easier.

  15. One of my very best friend’s shares your birthday and understands what you have written so intimately. It might sound trite, but I still want to wish you a happy , happy birthday Liz

  16. Happy birthday – and I hope you manage to reclaim it someday. My son was born on September 13, 2001, and even though it wasn’t the same day, the associations will be there for the rest of his life, I think. I wrote a post about it: < HREF="http://penguinunearthed.wordpress.com/2006/09/05/history-3/" REL="nofollow">History<>

  17. Happy birthday, Liz. This was such an interesting read and I hope that today is exactly the day you want it to be.

  18. I’m sorry those bastards hijacked your special day… Warmest birthday wishes to you, Liz… from a fellow Virgo.

  19. I’m not going to read all the comments, but Marie is right above me and she says it all.Salut Liz !

  20. Happy Birthday, Liz. What a beautiful tribute to 9/11 and to New York. Being able to do that honors you, on your birthday. As do we all. Again, happy day — and it should be. 🙂

  21. That was a powerful story, and I can completely understand why you don’t feel you can celebrate on your birthday. I’ve often thought that as horriffic as it was to us watching, it was nothing compared to what people who were there in New York City experienced. Happy Birthday, and I hope you can find some enjoyment amid the sorrow. 9/11 will never be forgotten, but I hope someday you will be able to celebrate again.

  22. Happy b-day to you Liz. That was so eloquently written. It’s a day of remembrance and celebratory, of lives passed, new life sprung. Enjoy your intimade b-day tonight with your loved ones, those are the best celebration!

  23. THe little girl I babysat for as a teenager shares your birthday. After we all calmed down from watching the attack happen live from Spain and trying to call our friends and family, I actually thought, “Poor Lila. This is her birthday. THIS will forever be her birthday.” Now I think, with a smile, “Hey! It’s Lila’s birthday! I wonder how she’s doing?” It’s a guarantee that I think of her every year, at least once. Now I can add you to the list of good things to think about.Happy birthday, Liz!

  24. Happy, happy birthday, Liz. And thanks for sharing something so painful and personal and most beautifully rendered.

  25. Happy Birthday, Liz! I am so sorry your day has become one infamous in history. Life is so amazing. Laughter and joy through tears. That about it sums up life sometimes. Enjoy your day dammit! Don’t let the terrorists win by not enjoying your birthday. Extra chocolate cake. Loved your huffington post piece. Well done.Lisa

  26. Happy Birthday! I’m so glad I followed a link to your blog. Thank you for sharing such a personal window inside you. And what a beautiful tribute to 9/11. Thank you again.

  27. Believe it or not, I was actually thinking about you this weekend. We went to see United 93 (probably months after it was on in the US LOL) on Friday. Today they had a whole feature on the radio (what were you doing when IT happened?).And it made me think about you. I’m so glad you’re taking your birthday back, step-by-step. Of course you deserve to feel special again and you will…in time.But in the meantime, enjoy the fettucine alfredo (this is my favourite pasta dish) with Nate and your dad.Happy Birthday, Liz.

  28. Liz-What I know is that when a gift to the planet like you is born, it is a holiday no matter what else history shoves at us. This will always be a hard day – and the memories fade but also don’t. I am old enough to have been a teenager when President Kennedy was killed and so I get two of these awful days. But I did learn from that the power of time and purpose. You are a purposeful and committed mother, writer and person and all who know you celebrate your birthday. No matter what day it may be. It’s our good fortune that you showed up.

  29. One of my husband’s co-workers has this birthday, and she gets the same thing all the time.Happy birthday, and enjoy your fruitless cake.

  30. Beautifully written post. Happy birthday, Liz. Eat some fettuccine alfredo (mmmm) and cake for me.

  31. Happy birthday, from a fellow September baby (and a mommy of two of them!)…Enjoy your day, your pasta, your cake, your LIFE!

  32. LIZ,It never ceases to amaze me that we could have a distant connection like this. My birthday is April 19th. This is the day of the Waco Compound fiasco and the Oklahoma City bombing. I kept thinking to myself, why are the wack-o’s picking MY day? Then my husband told me that his grandmother died on April 19th. For a couple of years, even though I did still celebrate, there was always this small dark shadow of a thought that perhaps something was about to happen. This of course does not compare to the actual footage you must have re-playing in your head from what your eyes saw through that telescope. So from one “disaster day” b-day girl to another, I toast you on your birthday that this day has some sunshine to it, because you were born on this day. Which is why Thalia is here, and she is sure to be a great one! happy birthday and enjoy your quiet intimate dinner with your family.

  33. Happy Birthday. The way you conveyed your apartment balcony and your view that day was really phenomenal. You didn’t waste a word. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have read it. Here’s to many more years of sharing your gifts with the world.

  34. Happy Birthday. I hope you enjoy every mouthful. And as a gift I give you my birth day. Use it from now on if you wish. No bad memories. September 30th. But then you would be a Libra. Changing b-days might work, but not signs…

  35. as evidenced by your comments section today, there are a lot of people out there who benefit from your having been born. your writing makes us laugh and think and react. and every day, we seek more of it. i believe birthdays are there for us to tell people we care about that we’re glad they were born. 9/11 notwithstanding, today is <>still<> your day. happy birthday.

  36. My son will turn 5 tomorrow. He was a scheduled c-section, and I had originally wanted 9/11 as his birthday, but the OB I wanted wasn’t on that day. As it was, we were at the OB doing our final visit before they cut you open when the attacks happen. For him, too, whenever I give out his birthdate we get the “Oh, you mean…?” about a second or two after they realize it’s the following day. But you need to go on, to celebrate, to take back the day, as it were, just like we, who live in the DC area, do the same. If we don’t, it means the terrorists did their jobs well, and we aren’t doing ours at all.Happy Birthday, Liz, and I hope you enjoy your low-key celebration tonight, just as we will enjoy our pirate party tomorrow. Arrrghh, mehearty!

  37. At the job I had on Sept 11, I called the company’s customers for various reasons. In the weeks following that day, I called all of our customers in that area to ask them if they were okay. Was there anything we as a company or I as an individual could do to help. Usually, they just wanted me to listen to their story.One of my favorite customers told me that his wife worked across the street from the WTC towers, but thankfully she wasn’t at work that day. She was in the hospital. Having a baby. He hold me that despite the tragedy of that day, Sept. 11 would always be the day that his little girl saved her mother’s life. All in all, not such a bad day to be born after all. Happiest wishes to you.

  38. Hey Liz,Maybe in March, we can get the New York blogging community together and christen your half-birthday as the official new “yippee for you!” day. I’ll start working on the invites now.In the meantime, best wishes today. It’s been a rough five years, and it’s no small thing to have the one day of the years that’s supposed to be all yours taken from you.

  39. This is a beautiful post, Liz. I can sort of understand how you feel — my birthday’s on the 18th and even though it’s a week after the 11th I felt, for a few years after ’01, badly for celebrating. It felt wrong. Disrespectful. Dave’s best friend’s birthday is today and I can remember us talking to him on that day in ’01 and just feeling numb. Like saying ‘Happy Birthday!’ was just ridiculous.Thank you for sharing this with us. This post really, really resonated with me.

  40. Happy Birthday! I hope that you can find the joy in your day because it is yours. You own it. Don’t let anyone steal it from you. We will never forget the horrific tragedy that happened but we can honor the loss of innocence and the lives that were needlessly lost any day.

  41. Liz, I became a blog addict a few months ago and have yet to respond to anyone’s writings. Maybe because I don’t have a blog to link to and wish I did, who knows… anyway, I live in Richmond, VA- a place that seems very far from NY and the Pentagon.. today everyone seems to be going about their lives. I came here looking for someone to share my feelings on this day and was so glad to find you doing so. The birthday thing aside (which is admittedly ucky), I need to think about 9/11 and how much has changed and how much hasn’t. Thank you for giving me a chance to do. Stacey

  42. Liz, happy birthday. It always saddens me that what should be just another day for most of us – and should be a wonderfully happy day for you and other friends of mine, as well as many strangers – is forever scarred.I wish you a lovely birthday dinner with all the alfredo sauce and fruit-free cake you can handle.

  43. I just posted about my now 12 year old son, whose birthday is also today.For five years people have been doing that to a little kid, the “Oohh, so sad! Does he know?” Yes, he knows. We remember. But he’s a kid, and he gets his birthday celebrated too.Happy Birthday to you!

  44. I hear you. We have a family birthday on 9/11 as well. My father died the day before my birthday. One grandmother died the day before Thanksgiving, the other one died the day after Christmas. My grandfather died 2 days after my youngest son was born and right before Easter, my nephew died just after I announced the triumphant, long awaited pregnancy which would become my eldest son. My friend was killed the day before my anniversary, another friend died on St. Patrick’s Day and my uncle died the day before Valentine’s day. Nobody manages to hit it right ON the day, but the mood is generally spoiled and we are going to start celebrating Groundhog Day and Arbor Day with renewed fervor around here. It gets old real fast and it never goes away when “your” day is ruined. That does not take away from the tragedy of other peoples’ loss. Cut yourself a break and enjoy what sounds like a DIVINE dinner. (If this fails to do it, I offer my Birthday-Consolation-Plan: Celebrate your birthday in small but fabulous ways for the duration of the month. Gifts aplenty. Splurges. Little treats. Tickets. Baubles. Lunches out. I’m just saying.)

  45. god dammit. i just wrote a huge comment. fucking work computer.my birthday is tomorrow. and basically, i couldn’t be more opposite than you are when it comes to my bd. i don’t care to celebrate it, make a big deal about it, etc. especially since 9/11. the day after IT happened, everyone wanted to know why i wasn’t happy on my birthday. why wasn’t i happy?!?!! didnt’ the world just fucking fall apart yesterday? oh i’m sorry, i should have forgotten already and been all about me? i am sad on my bd now. i’m sad because i’m still sad about what happened. i don’t think my birthday will ever hold the meaning it used to before the big day.

  46. I can only imagine the impact 911 had on anyone living in Manhattan. I remember watching David Letterman in the days following and he was visibly shaken for quite some time. I’m sure it’s strange to celebrate on this day, but you certainly deserve it. Have a wonderful birthday.

  47. my comment sounds snarky. don’t mean it to be. and i forgot to tell you happy birthday. because even though today sucks. you don’t. lol

  48. happy birthday. Enjoy every bite of pasta and cake & being around the folks who love you. When it comes down to it, that really what it’s all about.

  49. Very powerful post. I’d say just keep in mind the joy that your birth must have brought to your parents, and try to keep that in your heart as you celebrate this and future birthdays.

  50. Liz, I’m glad you’re able to reclaim some of the day. Instead of “happy” birthday, I’ll wish you a peaceful one, and say that I’m thankful you’re here to share it with all of us.

  51. Liz, I’ve been thinking about you all day, because I know this is a hard day for New Yorkers, but I didn’t know it was your birthday too. Happy birthday, and may the Fettucine Alfredo and cake be the best you’ve ever had.

  52. Happy Birthday. I hope your celebration tonight is just what you need it to be.

  53. you know, I was thinking about you as I drove in this morning–wondering if you would tell a story of *that* day… I hoped you would because I knew it would be a story I could connect to in this few days of stock media-tributes and rememberances.excellent post as always ( and disarming–the part about watching the “rescue mission” made me start in my seat).my son’s birthday was yesterday–and you know what, he was born at 11:56 pm. He was vaccummed out swiftly when the doctor asked “Joy, do you want me to get this baby out for you today?” One year post 9/11 it seemed so important to avoid the date. “YES!” And now it’s almost laughable and not a little sad–it would have been one more reason to celebrate life today.Do I regret the vacuum? Hells no. I was done pushing that puppy. But that the date factored into it–I really do now. Not least, because what would be more props-worthy than sharing a birthday with LIZ???? Happy, happy birthday, Liz. And eat a few thousand cream-rich calories for me, would you?

  54. Hey I almost didn’t read this post because I avoid the news, tv, and all things related on this date. I’m just that much of a chicken to try to deal. I can’t even fathom what you experienced but I’m glad I stayed and read on. I was only able to hack one other “related” post today, coincidently someone else who was there to witness the horror. I don’t know where I’m going with this and I usually don’t bother to comment when you have received so many already but I have to say: Reclaim the day, please reclaim the day as yours. Happy Birthday and I really mean it.

  55. Happy Birthday, Liz! It was your birthday before it was 9/11. And it’s one more reason to celebrate life this day, your life for one more year. Remembering is good. So is living the life you have.Enjoy that cake.

  56. Happy Birthday, Liz!I hope as time passes you’ll be able to enjoy your birthday more.My mother’s birthday is the day JFK was shot (11/22), and it took her years and years before she was able to celebrate it without mourning too.

  57. You can have my birthday; I don’t want it anymore anyway! Hope every year gets better. Happy Birthday.

  58. Today is my mother in laws birthday. To make dates even worse, my father in laws bday is April 15th. Happy Birthday….

  59. Happy Birthday, Liz! You know, there’s nothing more life-affirming than celebrating a birthday! I hope you have a wonderful dinner tonight with the people who love you the most.

  60. God, you made me cry. I’m sorry that your day is marred by this awful date. I met a woman once who gave birth that day, and I thought of that child filling out forms her whole life, and the people looking at those forms and remembering…. My birthday is NYE, and I always thought December 31st was sucky (try getting reservations for dinner any place that’s nice, without having to deal with CROWDS and major $$$ on New Years Eve…), but I think yours is worse. Maybe you should start celebrating 1/2 birthdays, in March. 😉Your talk of the fear following that day reminded me of living in SF after the ’89 earthquakes, when each of the millions of aftershocks we felt sparked fear of ‘the big one’. Ugh. Hope I never feel anything like that fear again. Yet I still live in CA.Happy Birthday. I hope that each passing year brings you more peace and joy, and that your Sept. 12 friend never figures out her mistake.

  61. I hope you had a wonderful birthday and that your cake was yummy.I’m glad that you’re finding it a little easier to celebrate each year. You deserve your special day.

  62. HAPPY BIRTHDAY LIZ!! — I’m so glad we had a chance to be on the call together. I updated my blog to reflect some of your comments. My asides weren’t really neccessary to the piece and you were right about them being unfair. Of course.Hope this day spoils you… and if it doesn’t, you have a whole month to celebrate Liz!

  63. Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday!Happy Birthday to Liz, and everyone else in the world whose birthday is today. You have just reminded me that every day is the anniversary of a thousand terrible things, and a million wonderful ones.

  64. Happy birthday Liz! God, I could almost taste that pasta, the way you described it. I hope you enjoyed it. My grandmother and SIL share a birthday with you. I feel sad for all of those with birthdays today. It’s not fair that your special day is forever linked to something so tragic. I say just celebrate on the 10th or 12th!

  65. There have been directives all over tonight in the blogs to read this or that ‘for today’. I didn’t.I read this. I’m done.A great post — thanks for put it out there.

  66. Your birthday celebration sounds divine! May it get better and better with each passing year. Happy Birthday.Carrie

  67. HAPPY BIRTHDAY – 2001 was tougher than I can ever imagine, but I’m glad you’re around to share your thoughts and feelings with us, may you be around for many,many more.

  68. Liz, this is a beautiful post. It perfectly captures the incredible mix of feelings that you deal with each September. Thanks for letting us in — a little farther — to your world.I hope that you had a wonderful birthday and that the alfredo was every bit as good as it sounds!

  69. Happy Belated Birthday. I used to go to Rye Playland. But well, what can you say about having a bday on that day. About the friend who wishes you HB on sept 12, is her name SUSAN? LOL

  70. Mine is also 9/11. It probably never will be the same. I just try to enjoy it the best I can, and hopefully you will be able to also.

  71. Happy Belated Birthday. I hope your friutless cake was everything you wanted and more.

  72. I lost so many friends that day and I think each and everyone of them would have wanted us to celebrate their lives as well as our own.My friend lost her husband that day and yes, it was her birthday too. That amazing woman chooses to celebrate the fact that she had him in her life and that he made her life so wonderful. I think that is beautiful.Hope you had a wonderful night.

  73. Happy Birthday on the 12th from another Virgo. My niece also shares your birthday and although she was far away from the horror that you actually witnessed, her birthday is also shadowed by the infamous date.Hope your birthdays keep getting better every year. I loved the comment about the baby being born on that day and so saving her mother’s life. Collect all the positives and eventually they’ll balance the negatives.

  74. Liz, you’re amazing. You’ve got a great fan-club here, and for good reason. Your honest, wry, and poignant writing blows us away.Thank you for sharing this story; and have a wonderful birthday.

  75. Your birthday will always be a wonderful day for me. Emotions have layers. Always, somewhere in there will be 9/11 and all the horror which it evokes. But high on the top of those emotions will by the birth of my wonderful, beautiful little girl who would grow up to be an incredible woman. I love you every day of the year, but especially on September 11th. In the midst of tragedy is triomph. You are it.

  76. OH! Your dad’s post is wonderful! I hope you are feeling the love b/c there is much of it all around for you! Hope the pasta (and the cake) rocked. I ate some leftover cake (and fudge) in celebration of your day too.

  77. I hope you had a birthday of happiness, joy, and comfort with your family! September 11 is, despite the sadness, a happy day for me, too – I went on my first date with my now-husband on that day in 1996. There are sad endings on that day, but also happy beginnings – your birth, and my relationship with my husband. Best wishes!

  78. checked back to see how the birhtday turned out and have to say – yay! Liz’s Dad! “Emotions have layers.” No kidding on that. Hope your birthday was exactly what you wanted/needed it to be and happy birth day to your Dad too.

  79. So glad you found a peaceful way to spend your special day. I hope you had lots of bread to go with the fettucini alfredo.Happy belated birthday.

  80. I love what Jaelithe said: “…every day is the anniversary of a thousand terrible things, and a million wonderful ones.”You’re wonderful, Liz. I hope you had a great birthday, filled with love, alfredo sauce and fruitless cake.

  81. Oh Liz. What an experience. I’ve wondered how it is for people born on September 11th. I think you’re right- It will get more normal as time passes.And happy birthday. 🙂

  82. I don’t know what else to say to this, but I think in some cases words aren’t needed to convey emotions. This is a beautiful post. I’m so sorry for…well, for the loss of thousands, but also for your loss. For the loss of your day, for the loss of our world as we knew it. I’m glad that you’re finding peace and balance as the years pass by. May we all.Happy Birthday!

  83. you know, i’d love to say something profound here, but that’s not what you need. so let me just tell you how much i admire you and your remarkable spirit, and how sorry i am you had to experience the horror of that day on *any* day of your life.Happy (belated) Birthday, dear dear friend. i hope it was beautiful, and that every one from here on out will be, too. xox

  84. Oh we’ll have some Virgo birthday drinks in New Zealand sometime. Sept 11 has less resonance here, and you can probably find some other places too. Not that we haven’t remembered, we’ve had all the documentarys too, but you know, a little distance makes a difference. Happy birthday, and thanks, that was a beautifully written piece about life from your balcony.

  85. happy belated birthday. i hope you get everything that you wished for 🙂

  86. I’m sorry I didn’t make it over here on your day to wish you a Happy Birthday. So, Happy Belated Birthday, Liz.I hope the day was enjoyable!! 🙂

  87. Just found your blog today and love it. I also have the same birthday as you and find it hard to celebrate. Everytime I show my license for proof of date of birth or for writing a check I get the same old sayings….oh your birthday must suck or poor you having a birthday like that. I just want to reach over and strangle them. I usually just say ” I didn’t die that day or any of my family so how could it possibly suck for me!!!!”Beth

  88. Happy Birthday!My niece has the same birthday but she is turning 10 so she doesn’t experience the same problems. I can imagine how annoying it must be to have people making such comments every time you say your birthday. I vow to not make comments to anyone who mentions their birthday is 9/11 to me. I’ve linked to this post from my post today.

  89. Liz,Today is MY Birthday as well. Yes, it truly is awful, but I try to think of the positives (it’s hard, I know). Such as… I’m alive, People will always remember our B-day(except for your one friend), It is even more meaningful now than it ever was, and many more I’m sure. For me, there is such an array of emotions when 9/11 comes each year. It is sometimes hard to describe. I really don’t think there is anyone who can ever understand what we go through on our Birthdays, except those select lucky few, such as ourselves. Or, as I would like to think of ourselves as the, “chosen.” 🙂 I think God sent us to earth on this day because He knew we were strong enough to handle the tragedies that came with it. Happy Birthday, my September 11th friend.

  90. Sorry but … there are events all over the world that killed more people than 9/11. Go to wikipedia and click on almost any date and there is some terrible event associated with it. Americans think that their 3000 deaths are somehow more significant, more important, more memorable than deaths in the rest of the world. What is that media equation? 1 American = 10 Europeans = 100 Africans (and other poor countries).Your birthday is just another day…

  91. Anonymous 7/16 (from Melbourne, Australia)I appreciate the angry if entirely trite Anti-American sentiment. Really I do. I really appreciate you reading a few blog posts of mine after googling something about licensed characters and assuming you’ve got me and my evil xenophobic ways all figured out. I appreciate you taking an experience that was very painful and personal to me and making it political. And I extra-especially appreciate this world of relativism that you’re living in, where “my disaster is more important than your disaster.” How many people needed to be killed for me to have your permission to be sad about 9/11? How many more people jumping out 100-story windows did I need to witness for me to be allowed to have recurring nightmares about it? Because if you can create a flowchart or something I think that would be super helpful for all of us in the future. 1 Australian = 1 dipshit.

  92. Hi, I stumbled upon your blog searching for something else and saw the link to this post in the sidebar. Yours is one of the most moving 9/11 stories I’ve read in a long time, worthy of any anthology.

  93. Mom101, thanks for setting the dipshit straight so I didn’t have to… UGH!Here I am with a belated Happy Birthday!!! I’m glad you were born!!

  94. Hey Liz,
    I thought for sure that I had commented back when I originally read this post, but I'm remembering being so moved (as I am now) that I could not find the words to write coherently. This will always be your day, to spend in whatever way you wish, make it your own. With a small gathering of friends and family, Nate and your beautiful daughters, all of us commenters and FB friends chiming in with sincerest best wishes. No matter how many years pass, this will always be “that day,” but it belongs to you, hold it fiercely.
    <3 and many hugs.

    And to the fuckstick Australian of the comment up above? The Grinch called; he said he doesn't want his heart back. You can have it.

  95. Sad and happy can coexist. They have to. It's the crux of life.

    And I think it's so OK to focus on the happy part. It does not show disrespect- it shows a respect for life.


  96. Glad you reshared this via twitter today. Reminds me a lot of my friend's description, as he too was on his little balcony from his apartment in the Village, talking on his phone and taking a few pictures.

  97. You still deserve to have a bit of happiness on this day. Celebrate having life. Those that lost theirs would want us to continue celebrating life.

    Happy Birthday Beautiful Lady.

  98. Strange that you picked February 10 as the “random” birthday…that was my mother's birthday, and she died far too young, in what should have been middle age. Last year my family hosted an exchange student from Finland. His birthday was also 9/11…except the date didn't mean anything to him. Oh, he knew all about the terrorist attacks, the twin towers, the Pentagon, just not the date, as we here do not know the date of the London subway bombings. Take care–nice article.

  99. yes i am another 11th. i tried to avoid a party every year @ work but they wont let me even if i take a vacation week to avoid it.i have gradually come to realize that it was the day chosen for me to be born by God's choice and is somehow making me feel blessed. If anyone can comprehend this please msg. back.we are not alone.

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