HOBOKEN, NJ—In what threatens to be an annual ritual, Rob Bachman, born Sept. 11, 1973, braced himself Tuesday for yet another birthday ruined by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"My birthday's gonna suck for the rest of my life," Bachman said on the eve of his 29th birthday. "Every year, I'm going to want to go out and have fun, but it's always going to be inappropriate in light of the meaning of this most tragic of days."
Added Bachman: "Man, there's nothing quite like hitting the bars on the anniversary of the worst act of terrorism ever perpetrated on U.S. soil."
Though Bachman will try to enjoy his "special day" as best he can, he said he is not looking forward to the muted, somber acknowledgements he will receive from others.
"Last week, there was a lunchtime office party for [coworker] Matt [Quigle], complete with cake and decorations, because, of course, nobody cringes when you say your birthday is Sept. 5," Bachman said. "Already this week, Dina the receptionist, who lost a cousin in the attacks, looks like she's going to cry at any second. If they do recognize my birthday at all, I'm sure it'll be in some tasteful, appropriate way, without music or streamers or anything like that."
"If I try to have a good time, I look like this shallow, selfish asshole who's oblivious to what's going on in the world," Bachman continued. "Still, Sept. 11 is the only birthday I have, and it'd be nice if I were allowed to have fun."
As of press time, Bachman's efforts to gather friends and coworkers for the evening have been unsuccessful. Most of his e-mails and voicemail messages have gone unreturned, while those friends who have responded have politely declined, offering subdued birthday wishes.
"When I invited my friends a few weeks before, I distinctly avoided mentioning the date and just said people were getting together for my birthday on Wednesday," Bachman said. "Of course, once people realized what day it was, they all bowed out. Now that I think of it, I probably would've done the same thing."
If he is unable to assemble a group of friends, Bachman said he may just spend the evening at home alone.
"Maybe I'll just chill out and watch a movie," Bachman said. "But I know that as soon as I turn on the TV, I'm going to get hit with one of the wall-to-wall specials on the attacks, and it's going to make watching Shallow Hal or some other bullshit puff movie seem way too depressing."
Though Bachman's friends are hesitant to engage in any sort of revelry on Sept. 11, they sympathize with his plight.
"I really feel bad for him," said Danielle Eckstrom, Bachman's longtime friend. "Some of his friends don't want to go out because they're afraid of some big follow-up attack. The rest just want to be alone that night. I was going to take it on myself to go out and make sure he has a good time, but I don't particularly want to go out, either."
Given the historical magnitude of the Sept. 11 attacks, Bachman said he doesn't hold out much hope for future birthdays, either.
"It's probably going to be at least 10 years before I can get back to celebrating like a normal person." Bachman said. "Then again, that 10th anniversary of the attacks should be a pretty big deal, too. Fuck."