Honor through celebration of life

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, September 13, 2012

Everyone makes the same face when I respond to, “When’s your birthday?” Some people even offer condolences.

But other than having something tragic happen on my birthday, I have no connection to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

In September 2001, I was working for a television station in Montgomery and had taken the day off to spend with family in my hometown.

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I passed on my normal morning routine scanning news headlines on TV and went to refinish a table in my parents’ garage. When I came back inside the house, the answering machine was flashing and the phone was ringing.

I answered. It was my mom. There was no, “hello.” No, “Happy birthday, sweetheart.” Just the command, “Turn on the TV!”

And so I did, just in time to see the second plane crash into the South Tower.

In that moment, I changed. Our country changed. And my birthday, Sept. 11, changed forever.

Now, instead of a birthday, I think of it as a re-birthday. It is a day that reminds me the world is bigger than I am. There are many more problems and much more heartache than I can ever fathom. And there is enough compassion and American spirit to see us through those struggles.

The year following the terrorist attack on the United States was an odd one. I wasn’t sure if it was wrong to celebrate as usual. But it didn’t seem right not to acknowledge the fact that life goes on.

It was something that New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said that made it clear what I should do.

“. . We’re going to be stronger than we were before … I want the people of New York to be an example to the rest of the country, and the rest of the world, that terrorism can’t stop us.”

And it hasn’t. Giuliani’s push to have New Yorkers honor those who died by living their own lives trickled down to a girl in the South.

Now, each year, I celebrate with new meaning.

The terrible events of September 11 are never far from my mind at this time of year. However, to let them stop me, or any of us, from living our lives would be succumbing to the people who seek to do our nation harm.

They wanted to change our way of life. They wanted to make us afraid to live.

We can’t let them succeed.

Celebrating birthdays, life, friends and family are part of American tradition. And it isn’t disrespectful to do those things.

We must live in memory of those who are no longer able to. And I’ll continue to blow out my birthday candles in honor of those who died on Sept. 11, 2001.


Robbyn Brooks is managing editor of The Messenger. Contact her at robbyn.brooks@troymessenger.com.