Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Anticipating the 9/11 Birthday Blues.

On Tuesday, September 11, I will be turning 50 -- that is, legally dead in the eyes of those keeping tabs on demographic trends.

As a general rule, I stopped celebrating my birthday after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. After all, it made no sense to celebrate knowing that over three thousand people died in what was perhaps the most vicious terrorist attack to occur in our own backyard.

I was riding a MTA bus on my way to the Anaheim Convention Center to attend a trade show that day when at the Fullerton Park & Ride stop, a woman boarded the bus and shrieked, "They attacked the Pentagon! They attacked New York!" At first, I thought the woman was a nutcase spewing nonsense. Only when I arrived at the convention center did I discover the real horrid truth.

An entire ballroom was nothing but wall-to-wall news coverage of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. It was the day after that, even as everyone struggled to regain their perspective, they were forced to shift gears, pull together, and find alternative ways to get home to their families, be it by rented car and car pools, Amtrak or even Greyhound.

It was during the aftermath of the attack that I discovered the only way possible that I could help was to be a sounding board and listen to what people shared with me. They shared their frustrations, their anger, and more important, their hopes that things will get better in the end, and it was through my conversations with others, and being their sounding board, that I discovered as to what kind of people we really are.

It was one of the ironies of the 9-11 terrorist attacks that I would become the roommate and friend of an Iranian immigrant who opened his home to me by renting out a room to me. I initially contacted him out of concern for his well-being as a result of the post-9/11 backlash, but when we got together, I mentioned to him I was looking for a room to rent, and he made the offer to open his home to me. Over the last five years, we had our ups and downs, but in the end, I wound up expanding his world just as much as he expanded mine. We were there for one another when the chips were down, and we learned from one another in the process.

As I now enter my fifth decade as a man, I have much to learn still, and I still have much important work ahead of me.


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