Friday, September 11, 2009


"Nine one one. What is your emergency?" 911 is the number you dial on the phone when you need emergency services. It is the promise of help. The beginning of a rescue.

September 11 is my mom's birthday. This has been a part of the rhythm of my life for my entire life. Labor Day/school starts and then we soon celebrate mom's birthday. Six weeks later it's dad's birthday followed by Halloween and my birthday. Soon after that is Thanksgiving and then Advent which leads to Christmas and New Year's. It has long marked the beginning of a long season of celebrations in our family.

Nine eleven is the day when terrorists flew commercial jets full of passengers into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and not into the White House (thanks to brave passengers who acted selflessly over Pennsylvania). Nine eleven is the traumatic event which has shaped American thinking and acting for almost a decade now. It is this generations' JFK assassination in a way.

I remember that one of my early reactions to the news as it was unfolding was a totally selfish anger that "they" had turned my mom's birthday into something else. That morning I'd woken up and wondered what it was going to be like for me, living through Mom's birthday without her. She'd died just over nine months earlier. Part of my willful response to the events of that morning -- my "you can't beat us that easily" rebellion was to continue on with our quiet celebration of Mom. Dad and I went to Ritter's and had frozen custard sundaes for supper in her honor. Inside I was sticking my tongue out at "those terrorists" with one of the ultimate comfort foods. I think we were the only customers Ritter's had that night. Most Americans had begun to hunker down already.

Three digits with multiple meanings. All depends on how you slice it.

Oh, and Porsche makes a 911 model -- but that is pretty far from my life experience radar. I only remembered it when I Googled "911" to find these images for illustration.

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