It just occurred to me that my sister celebrates her golden birthday tomorrow, which officially makes her a preteen and separates her from the tragic events surrounding her birth by more than a decade. September 11, 2001 is today a day a mixed feelings for me. While thousands of people died, my mother was in the hospital pushing a new life into the world with all her might. In all this, I was in my aunt's custody, being told to watch the news for homework.
I knew then just as much as I know now that it was a day I would never forget, and the circumstances for my family especially were unique. I knew that celebrating my sister's birthday would conflict with the need to mourn the lost, and that the mourning would feel strange as I reminded myself that there was reason to be happy. Ten years later, on the Tin Anniversary of the attacks, I could say that I appreciated the feeling and all its complexities more so than I had originally conceived them to be, but from the start I was still on the right track.
Every time September 11 rolls around, the alienating bittersweet feeling captivates me for the entire day. I always write a journal entry about my feelings. I always stop by a half-raised flag and hold my hand over my heart for a minute in solemn silence. I contemplate on the loss, but then I remind myself that here in America, as is the case with my sister, there is always hope, even in the darkest of days. After all, the smoke rising from the World Trade Center couldn't blot out the rays of the sun. Then, usually, I cry.
This is my sister's day. That's a fundamental relationship. So is the relationship between man and country. On September 11, I find myself at my most human. Everything I stand for, everything I believe in comes to a halt, as if time stood still for 24 hours just to state me in the face, and so I can stare back. Time doesn't say anything to me; it just looks knowingly at me, nods its head, and continues on before the silence becomes awkward. All the goods and evils of the world - the things that I live for and the things that I fight for - pull at me in opposite ends and stretch me out. Then the most important element of my humanity rises, where I am pulled in a third direction to rediscover my relationship as a man with God. I'm a believer in that perfect plan of his, whatever it may be, and I believe that he can hit seventy times seven birds with one stone and that these confusing events were all somehow meant just for me. Somehow the craziness of the world is meant to help me grow as a person and call me to a higher destiny.
In its own subtle ways, September 11 helped to define me. It's not on a daily basis, but I recall being an eight-year-old boy and thinking that I wanted to serve my country. Normal men grow up to fight for small things, like impressing a loved one, but they are capable of so much more. As it happens, I too live for loved ones, such as my sister. She is indeed a very special person and with living for, yet she is also a symbol of this country and its needs. I can't celebrate her birth without also thinking of my obligations to my larger family, my entire country, and the day it needed the love of its children the most. Maybe this is my calling.
Tomorrow I wear white. Johnny Cash was right when up front there should be someone in black, and I respect the fine young men of this country who cry with those who weep. This country deserves BZP Lovers who remember the poor and downtrodden and come down to them. Tomorrow is time for that. Meanwhile I, for very similar reasons, will wear white. I wear white out of hope that we will see brighter days. I wear white to remind myself that there is comfort even in sadness. I wear white because my humanity depends on it. I wear white because Johnny Cash wears black for me, but most importantly I wear white because all I have is prayer. I pray for the lost and the lonely who suffer from September 11, 2001, whose lives are eternally filled with an empty seat at the table, and I pray for my sister. Happy birthday.