WASHINGTON – Sept. 11 is a day of mourning in America, a solemn memorial for the 2,975 people who died in the terrorist attacks in Pennsylvania, at the Pentagon and on the World Trade Center.
Yet small celebrations continue even while the solemn ceremonies memorialize the fallen.
For Tim Wong, a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, Sept. 11 has a special significance not shared by many others — it’s his birthday.
“It’s kind of weird,” says Wong. “Whenever I tell someone they look at me and nod and they think about it for a second, and then they say ‘Oh God, I’m sorry that must be awful for you.'”
Wong says for the first few years following the attacks he would plan celebrations either before or after the 11th. But now he feels that some of stigma has dissipated and it no longer affects his birthday plans.
This is a fairly common occurrence, said Dr. Ursula Weide, a licensed psychologist specializing in grief, death and bereavement. For people not directly affected by the events of Sept. 11 the day becomes less centered on the attacks of seven years ago.
“For those individuals who lost someone either at the Pentagon or the Twin Towers this is a very traumatic day,” Weide said. “But for others so many other things have happened in the meantime that I think the impact today, so many years later is much less.”
Although the Pentagon opened its memorial to the public Thursday with considerable fanfare, the events of the day had less impact elsewhere.
Bars stayed open, concerts were attended and the Baltimore Orioles were to play under the lights at Camden Yards. But places and events that generally might be considered exciting and fun may lose their luster when coupled with the somber tone of 9/11.
“I think some people will come in with their friends and family and have a drink.” said Mark Hemmis, owner of the Phoenix Emporium, a bar and restaurant in Ellicott City’s historic district. “But to go out and have a hootenanny on 9/11 wouldn’t be appropriate.”
Thursday is usually a busy night for the Phoenix, but Hemmis has toned it down for the day. He canceled all liquor promotions for the evening, although he still plans to have karaoke.
At Camden Yards the Baltimore Orioles will still face off against the Cleveland Indians.
“Baseball is something that is very unique to America,” said Monica Pence, a spokesperson for the Baltimore Orioles. “And I think some people may see baseball as an opportunity to celebrate this country.”
Every year since 2001, the Orioles played a game on Sept. 11, and every year the team has done something to memorialize the day, said Pence. This year, the team will donate 50 percent of ticket sales to Welcome Back Veterans, a charity concerned with returning veterans.
For those still suffering the impact of the losses, the memorial ceremonies on Sept. 11 anniversaries are an ideal way to cope, Weide said. It gives them a chance to talk about the events with others.
“We were all just absolutely horrified, almost to the point of paralysis, when we saw what happened on television,” Weide said. “And to relive that with others gives us a sense of community and a sense of support.”