Bringing Up a 9/11 Baby

Is it a blessing or a curse to be born on September 11?

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Sophie Gee

One year ago today, at 11:45 pm, my wife gave birth to our son, Baz. (His actual name is Benedict, but his mom is Australian—hence Baz.) He was almost two weeks overdue, so we induced labor. We didn’t even think about what day it was. Only after he was out, and checked out, and cleaned up, and bundled up, did one of the nurses start in on the paperwork.

When she came to the part about his time-of-birth, she looked over at us and said, a little uncomfortably: “We can put him down as September 12th if you want.”

We thought about it—but not for very long. We would stick to the facts. Our son would be a 9/11 baby. (That’s him in the photo above.)

I totally understand why the nurse offered. Even as she said it, I thought about the long string of bittersweet birthdays ahead of Baz. I was born on June 26, which is about as innocuous a date as you could come up with. There have been some plane crashes on June 26, a few battles, the Roman Emperor Julian was killed, Madagascar declared independence from France, and that’s about it. I know someone born on September 11th, and when he told me his birthday I winced in sympathy and silently thanked God it wasn’t me.

But now Baz is that guy: He’s going to go through his whole life hearing his birthday spoken of in tones of doom and tragedy. He’ll never have a birthday that’s 100 percent joyful. It seems like a lot to lay on a baby. Happy Birthday, son! It’s a national day of mourning!

We could have said yes to the nurse. We might even have kidded ourselves that maybe in all the fuss and chaos we got it wrong, maybe the birth didn’t actually happen till after midnight. But I was in New York City on September 11, 2001. I saw the first tower burning from the Manhattan Bridge as I rode in to work on the D train, the last train to cross the bridge that morning. That night I walked back across the  bridge to get home, with a tremendous pall of choking smoke hanging overhead, and FDR Drive eerily empty of traffic, and red ambulance lights streaking across the Brooklyn Bridge opposite. At that moment New York City felt like a dead place, a tomb, and the sooner we abandoned it the better.

That was, of course, what we were supposed to feel. But it wasn’t true then, and it’s not true now. September 11th was a tragedy, but I can’t think of a better way to remember and honor those who died than by making a new life. That’s what we did, and I’m pretty proud of it.

I hope Baz will learn to be proud of it, too. I’m sure he won’t be at first—that’s a pretty tough lesson for a little kid to learn. But if he can embrace it he might start to feel like being born on September 11th is a special thing: his birthday isn’t just a birthday, it’s a celebration of hope and renewal and resilience. When we chose to stick with the real date, we were placing a burden on our newborn baby, but I hope we were also giving him a gift—the first of many. Happy birthday, son. And many happy returns.

18 comments
JanaHSong33
JanaHSong33

As AjayGanu says, Jana Song will spend her birthday in prayer and remembrance--because 9/11 is not a war against Islam; it is a war against evil.

Jana Song does not practice any religion, but I love her for who she is. 

JanaHSong33
JanaHSong33

My foster child, Jana Heejung Song, was born on September 11 and is a Virgo. [She's of Korean stock, but her name is a Czech name meaning "gift from God"; Jana is a Czech name with a biblical connotation]. 

AjayGanu
AjayGanu

Worshipful Editor Sir

     I hope and pray all babies born on 9/11 spend their birthdays in prayer and remembrance.

ByzAnicon
ByzAnicon

My son was born on 9/11/06. Yes, we think of 9/1/01 on his birthday, but in no way does it ruin the joy of celebrating my son's birth. i suppose it strengthens our thankfulness that we have him. I am sure other people have birthdays on December 7 (Pearl Harbor) and November 9 (Krystallnacht), etc. Look far enough back into history and there's probably a tragedy set aside for every single day of the year. Death and loss have a way of making us appreciate life more.

Dee1983
Dee1983

There are tragedies occuring everyday in other parts of the world because of America.. with your perspective we should all be unhappy on our birthday. I was born July 2nd and 22 days after my parents fleed frm our home to get away from terror.. its not a reason to change your childs birthday.. ther is a bigger world out there than just America.. 

gogoqueen66
gogoqueen66

I fully understand. I guess it cannot be fun. My husband started work at his present job on that fateful day and it is never his anniversary of his employment but always a remembrance of a tragedy. Last year on my birthday Adam Lanza killed 20 little children. I am already wistfully contemplating that my birthday is now forever going to be twinged with sadness at the memory of that heinous crime. I get what he is saying. 

KatherynFisher
KatherynFisher

I disagree. Baz's birthday will always be joyful for him if his family and friends choose to make it that way. Why? His birth date is not 9/11/01, it is 9/11/12, so he was not born on "that September day." His birth day was an entirely different September 11th. It was the September 11th in which he was born and both his mother and father were there to celebrate in the birth of thier beautiful son and marvel at the miracle of the new life they had created. So celebrate your son's birthday with joy every year because every birthday is precious and should be a celebrated and happy day. As he grows older history books, and his parents will teach him soon enough what happened on that other September 11th. He will spend most of his life being reminded of that sad day so teach him to celebrate his life, like everyone born on September 11th or June 26th should do, in a way that brings him joy.

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I'm not sure what the author is getting at?

9/11 was a big deal in 2001. Since then, it's been an anniversary whose strength seems to weaken with each year.

Never forgot? Of course not, it was a national tragedy!

Let it consume our whole lives, to the point that we cannot comprehend anything wonderful happening on that day? Only in the mind of a simple American! The event dampens with each generation.

Open your eyes people, or let a bunch of actions of Islamic extremist engulf your life forever....your decision.

CarlosMarks1
CarlosMarks1

I think the boy is a metaphor for... those good...(good ?)... old ...(not so old)... days... ...  when Time Digital issues described a substantial edge which was not seemingly realized at the time.

robbmontgomery
robbmontgomery

My daughter was born on 9/11 at 9:44 a.m.  I had to break into the doctor's lounge to pull the doc and nurses away from the TV showing images of the Pentagon burning to deliver her.  Moment later I gave her a name and promised nobody would ever hurt her. Happy 12th birthday to my beautiful daughter, the best story to emerge from a horrible day. 

Fridayology
Fridayology

I was born Sept 11. But many years before the tragedy. I lost two friends in the towers. My brother in law was killed in a boating accident two days before that same year. There have been other years people have died on or just before my birthday. For a long time I've hated my birthday. A couple of years ago I realised these things happening reminded me to celebrate life and appreciate how precious and fragile it can be. It's no different to being born on Anzac Day in that era. Or on Rememberance Day. Or on the anniversary of the Pearl Harbour bombing. Baz won't really understand all the fuss, for him it will be a piece of history. Celebrate every birthday from the moment he wakes up. Grieve later. Our grief is not his burden.

PatLee
PatLee

Name the kid 9/11 Jew Grossman.  Lol.

PatLee
PatLee

9/11 changed everything.  Are you saying it didn't?   9/11 is a redneck holiday.  It's become so political, this article is stupid.

rpearlston
rpearlston

@gogoqueen66 There hasn't been a day that went by in the history of humankind on which some tragedy has not occurred.  There also has never been a day that went by in the history of humankind on which some happy event has not occurred.

I'm not going to quote Sinatra here, but that's life.

FuzzyPotato
FuzzyPotato

@Fridayology Agreed.  Both my father and an previous girlfriend were born December 7th, that "Day of Infamy".  Nether was born on the day of the attack and neither of them really thought of their birthdays as days of mourning.  It was just their date of birth.

rpearlston
rpearlston

@PatLee It's called privacy.  Your apparent refusal to understand that, to understand that not naming he boy in print he is protecting his son, is why your post is offensive.  You have been reported.