Fourth-grader mixes joy with honoring others on 9/11 birthday

James Seezen
James SeezenCOLUMBIA—James Seezens’ birthday is almost impossible to forget. He was born on Sept. 11, 2001, a joyful day for his family, but traumatic for the nation as thousands died in terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
James, a fourth-grader at St. Joseph School in Columbia, said his unusual birthday makes him feel special because he gets reactions from friends and teachers, and he doesn’t know any other kids who share his birthday.
His principal, Rose Tindall, asked James to read the book “September 12: We Knew Everything Would be Alright” for a special assembly at school on Sept. 6.
James spent a lot of time rehearsing the reading with his family, and it gave them all a chance to reflect on his birthday and what it means.
His parents, Michael and Rebecca Seezen, watched the events of that day unfold on TV in a Columbia hospital room until James was born at 5:42 p.m. Nurses induced Mrs. Seezen’s labor early that morning, and just a few hours later the first planes hit the Twin Towers.
“People didn’t know what was going on … I remember doctors and nurses stopping into my room to see the news,” Mrs. Seezen said. “I was also trying to call my best friend from college who lived in New York City at the time. Somehow I was protected from the reality of what was going on, because something so joyful was happening at the same time.”
Being a new mom in the days after 9/11 was a “bittersweet time,” with the joy of caring for a new baby jarred by almost constant news coverage of the attacks, Rebecca said. Her son’s birthday also drew constant comment.
“For the first couple years of his life, every time I had to give his birth date, people would stop in their tracks and kind of hem and haw,” Mrs. Seezen said. “I had to remind people it was still his birthday. As he’s gotten older, people stopped reacting as much. I think that coincided with people healing a little.”
James, meanwhile, understands what happened on 9/11 and why it was a sad day for so many people. For a long time, he wanted to grow up and be the one to capture Osama bin Laden, his mother said. Now, he has another patriotic goal. “I want to join the Army and fight for our rights and for our country!” he said.
The Seezens don’t let their son’s historic birthday get in the way of celebration, but they also see it as an opportunity to teach his siblings — Marshall, 8, and Jack, 3, about what happened 10 years ago.
“It is James’ birthday, and that’s what makes it joyful for us,” Mrs. Seezen said. “But we don’t forget. We understand there is a bigger picture as well, and we talk about it. We honor his birthday and the other events that happened. We talk about how all those people are in heaven with God, and we pray for their families.”