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I’ve never been comfortable calling 9/11 “9-11.” I’m not sure why this is. I’m not usually big on slash marks. Yet something about the hyphenated version of 9/11 has always bothered me. The only time I ever hyphenate the “9” and “11” in 9/11 is when I’m saving a file on my computer. Windows won’t let you use slashes when you’re naming your files. So if I want to save a file called “9/11.doc,” I have to save it as “9-11.doc” instead.
My favorite way of writing 9/11 actually involves no numbers whatsoever. If I had it my way, everyone would call 9/11 “Nine-Eleven.” I first came up with this variation several years ago because my journalism professor once taught me never to start a sentence with a number. I was writing one of my articles and really wanted to start a sentence with “9/11,” which, for some poetic reason or another, sounded better or seemed more appropriate than starting the sentence with “September 11th.” So I decided to compromise. I spelled out the numbers, and Nine-Eleven was born.
I like Nine-Eleven. But I’ve never seen anyone else use it.
Hallmark and the government have tried pushing the name Patriot Day on us, but that name has never stuck, either. We call it 9/11 because it felt like an emergency. We’re never going to call it anything different. Maybe Patriot Day will work when we’re all dead a few years from now. Or maybe it would work if Nine-Eleven had happened on Nine-Twelve.
I’ve gone through a lot of different preferences on this issue over the years. Sometimes my politics on 9/11 change. Other times, I just change the way I write it.
I’m okay with writing “09/11/01,” and I’m actually okay with “09-11-01” also. I’m not okay with leaving the zero off the number of the month, though. I don’t like how it looks when you write “9/11/01.” It seems imbalanced.
I’ve always been okay with writing “September 11th” or the abbreviated “Sept. 11th,” but I’ve never been okay with writing “Sept. 11” without the “th” unless the “11” is followed by the year, as in “Sept. 11, 2001.”
Lately, I’ve been getting tired of using the “th.” I think the only reason I haven’t stopped using it is because changing my ways seems like such a commitment.
Don’t be surprised if I make that change after writing this article. Maybe the fifth anniversary of September 11th will be another one of those days that changed everything.
Maybe next September 11th will be the first anniversary of the fifth anniversary.
A couple of months ago, I was reminiscing with some friends of mine about an incident that occurred the weekend after 9/11. We had plans to go to a club in Yonkers that Saturday (Nine-Fifteen, for those keeping score), and we kept those plans in spite of the fact that the world seemed like it was ending at the time. I wasn’t as interested as anyone else was in going out or doing anything or ever being happy again, so when we got to the club that evening, I sort of just spent the night in a corner with an Old Glory bandana tied around my bicep, singing into an empty beer bottle. This went on for an hour or two until I passed out in the booth on a pile of coats.
The next thing I knew, I opened my eyes to a mini-riot. Dozens of people running this way and that. The doors were locked, and angry ex-patrons were outside, pounding on the glass, demanding to get back in.
Some guy had apparently run someone over—on purpose—with his van.
Looking back, I’ve always gotten the feeling I was told an exaggerated version of what actually happened while I was passed out that evening. I’ve never really cared about the details, though, so I never thought to ask. But recalling the story a couple of months ago, one of my friends said something that I found unusual. She remembered complaining as she watched it unfold: “God! First 9/11. Now this?”
I don’t doubt that she actually felt that way. But what she remembered saying was technically impossible. No one called it “9/11” the weekend after 9/11 happened. No one called it “September 11th” back then, either. No one called it anything. Except for maybe “last Tuesday.”
People tend to forget this, looking back now.