What’s It Like When Your Birthday Is September 11?

Mandy Grazioso was not having a very good birthday.

It was the fall of 2009. She was turning 30, which suddenly felt old. She was nine months pregnant with her first child, everything hurt, and the pre-partum hormones were blazing. And then there was the constant news coverage of the eighth anniversary of 9/11—documentaries, news specials, TV movies, the reading of the names.

Everything just felt heavy.

Grazioso did what she always did on 9/11 since the terrorist attacks: She brought coffee and doughnuts to her local firehouse and police station. She sent her husband out for her favorite Italian pastries.

And then? She went home to celebrate her

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