I remember the day like it was yesterday… I woke up and I was 17. The usual hustle and bustle of getting ready for school commenced. My mom always had Good Morning America on in the background. I was putting extra care into my outfit and physical appearance that day (good heavens…).
My mom was making breakfast and some friends showed up to eat tacos as they decorated my car for the occasion. At one point my mom talked about fire on a building, but my teenage brain was so far removed from anything outside of my birthday that I hardly paid attention. (For the love…)
Off to school I went with a handful of balloons, walking around school with a smile on my face, glitter eyeliner and my new purple wedges.
It was going to be a fantastic day.
It was pretty clear as our first class started that something was wrong. Our teachers were acting strange, I remember getting a call from my dad saying I needed to watch out for my younger brother and to be safe. It was all so confusing, I didn’t understand.
By the time lunch rolled around, I tried desperately to hide my balloons under the table as embarrassment started to well up into my stomach.
This was not a day for celebration. Shame on me.
That evening, my family went to our annual family birthday dinner. We went to Fonda san Miguel, it was the strangest dinner. The restaurant was practically empty, silent eaters filled the room. We said a prayer before eating for all the people in New York City that had been affected. I was at a loss.
As years went by, people suggested I change my birthday…why should I celebrate on such a tragic day. I was left in a weird place.
It took me several years to truly understand the events of that day. Some years I would be close to obsessed, recording every show I could to learn as much as I could, fascinated with how incredibly terrible that day was. I just couldn’t believe it…who could do such a thing?
And why oh why was this on my birthday?
Every year, I get that same pit in my stomach as to whether or not I should be happy, to smile, to laugh, to celebrate…when many around the globe are mourning, grieving, filled with loss and absolute sadness.
It took me awhile, but finally I realized that all of those people who were in that building would have wanted us to celebrate life. Yes, that event was one of the most tragic, terrible, awful, baffling, horrific days in our history. But what is life if we don’t try to find some joy?
Now I on that day, choose joy. I always say prayers for those affected. I have shed tears over the heart wrenching reality so many had to face. But, I choose joy.
Life is full of tragedy, sadness, loss, struggle… I myself am 15 months out from my cancer diagnosis.
Many have every reason to hide in the darkness and wallow in our enveloping pain, hurt, sadness and fear. But where does that get us?
I choose to smile to the strangers, pay for the person behind me in the coffee line, hug my kids longer, dance with my husband in the kitchen, bake for my neighbors, eat the fancy cheese, drink out of the awkwardly tall champagne glasses, wear the sparkly dress, enJOY life.