Tomorrow -- on Sept. 11, 2010 -- I'm going to marry my high school sweetheart, James Greilick, in a cherry orchard in our hometown of Traverse City, Mich.
Many people have asked us why 9/11? To that I say, "We're taking back the date!"
I know some people may not understand, but before it was September 11, it was our anniversary, and we've decided to honor that. I mean, I have been with my fiance for 12 years now. We met in the seventh grade, really started hanging out in the 10th, and that led to our first official date, Sept. 11, 1998 -- long before that day became one synonymous with tragedy.
I realize it's a slightly bittersweet thing, and we did think of changing the day we would celebrate. But finally we made a decision: We were not going to let terrorists affect our personal lives that way. Sept. 11 has always been our anniversary -- it's also symbolic of us -- and we don't want to change that.
Of course, not everyone has agreed wholeheartedly with our reasoning.
When I told my sister Jennifer that we were getting married on Sept. 11, she said, somewhat sarcastically, "Wow, what a happy day for you to decide on."
"You know what? It WILL be," I replied.
Granted, my sister was probably affected more directly by the tragedy than I was. She was living in New York City the day the towers fell. But even though she has geographic attachment to the event, when I said, "It's our day, and we're going to make it happy again," she understood and gave us her blessing. I feel like if she can get it, then everyone else can too. Life does go on.
Consider, for instance, Pearl Harbor, which also had a huge impact on U.S. history. Dec. 7 is probably still a sensitive day for many Americans, but I think it's good to realize that history doesn't stop the march of time. Happy events do still happen on otherwise sad days, and life goes forward.
That's not to say that our anniversary in the years following 9/11 were purely joyous occasions. Not only was I frantic to find my sister when the planes hit, but my uncle also worked in the Twin Towers. His story is much like so many others': Had there not been traffic on the bridge into New York City that day, he might not be alive today. He lost a lot of friends on 9/11, and it's something he struggles with to this day. He won't be at our wedding, but that's not why. He, too, was congratulatory and supportive, despite his personal experience.
Back on Sept. 11, 2001, I was in Chicago, attending college. My dorms were evacuated, and we were sent to the Sheraton downtown. At the time, there was worry that the Sears Tower would be the next target. James was in school in Michigan. Though I know we chatted on the phone that day, I don't know if we even remembered it was our anniversary: The fact was, there was something so much bigger than ourselves occurring.
The first anniversary of the tragedy was just as devastating. Sept. 11, 2002, honored the victims as poignant photos and stories of loss poured forth. In fact, I don't think James and I even attempted an anniversary celebration until the third year, and even then it was subdued. "Hey, we should have cupcakes to celebrate," I think we said.
As a result of the events in 2001, however, we also developed a different, sweet tradition. Instead of focusing on only 9/11 -- our country's cry for help -- we have tried to make 11 "our" number, too. Now, whenever it's the 11th of any
month -- or when it reads 11:11 on the clock -- we look at each other and smile. It's a momentary reminder that we're still together after all these years, and, hey, that's awesome.
So now, on this
Sept. 11, in a cherry orchard in northern Michigan -- always my dream location for a wedding -- we will change our title again. We've traveled far, literally and metaphorically, to be here on this day, going from boyfriend and girlfriend, to fiances, and now, husband and wife. We're also traveling from L.A., where we now live, to Michigan, where our roots and families are. I believe this Saturday will be a wonderful occasion surrounded by love.
I also truly believe the quote "time heals everything." People are going to be born, get married, and there will be cakes and candles on Sept. 11, in spite of what happened on that horrible day in 2001. And as more and more years go by, people will keep celebrating, which won't make Sept. 11, 2001, go away, but hopefully the happiness in the future will eclipse some of the tragedy from the past.
I know that on this Sept. 11, I will be smiling.
This story was written by Kimberly Dawn Neumann, as told to her by Jessica Dunne
More about 9/11 on Lemondrop:
"My Husband Died on 9/11, But He Still Speaks to Me Through Signs"