Born on 9/11: How a birthday shaped one man's life

Born on 9/11: How a birthday shaped one man's life

From his uncle skipping work at the World Trade Center that day to attend his birth to how Shrivastava celebrates his birthday, 9/11 is never far away

Anish Shrivastava who was born on September 11, 2001 poses at Prospect Park in Troy, New York on July 24, 2021. Credit: AFP Photo

Anish Shrivastava's life has been molded by the events of the day he was born: September 11, 2001.

From his uncle skipping work at the World Trade Center that day to attend his birth to how Shrivastava celebrates his birthday, 9/11 is never far away.

Shrivastava was one of approximately 13,000 children born in the United States the same day al-Qaeda hijackers crashed two planes into the twin towers killing almost 3,000 people. But few can likely claim that their arrival helped save a life.

Shrivastava was born at 10:05 am on that Tuesday morning 20 years ago in a hospital in Princeton, New Jersey, just outside New York. The South Tower had fallen six minutes earlier and the North Tower would collapse in a little more than an hour.

Also Read — 'Total failure': The war on terror, 20 years on

In the hospital waiting room sat his father Ashish and Ashish's brother, Manish, glued to the television.

Shrivastava's uncle watched with horror as the tower that housed his office crumbled into a pile of debris and toxic ash. On impulse, he had made a last-minute decision to cancel a meeting that morning so he could welcome his nephew into the world. "We're connected by fate. We're very close," Shrivastava says of his uncle.

His mother Jaya says that her son had not been due until September 21 or 22. "He was there for a reason," she told AFP.

Shrivastava was a young boy when he was made aware of the seismic events of his birthday.

Shortly before he started school, his parents decided to tell him, in broad strokes, the story of that day, before he heard it from someone else. For Ashish, it was important to tell his son not just about the tragedy but also the "positives" that came from it: the volunteers, the heroes, the moments of unity.

Also Read — 9/11: Victims' families find solace, help in support groups

As Shrivastava prepares to turn 20 next month, he says he chooses not to mark his birthday on its actual date. "Obviously, we don't celebrate on that day. We usually just try to wait a couple days for that," he says. Instead, Shrivastava usually volunteers with the non-profit MyGoodDeed, which runs charitable services on 9/11, including food distribution.

"I tried to give back to the community... to obviously mourn those who passed, but also to take a lesson from it that we can build back to something better," he said.

Through MyGoodDeed, Shrivastava has met other people born on 9/11. Like many youngsters his age he enjoys video games, music and reading.

But his father believes the weight of their birth date has matured their generation earlier. "Their way of thinking about life is a bit different. And I look at it in a very positive way. Those kids really brought a ray of hope in this society," said Ashish.

Shrivastava says his birthday has "impacted my mindset about what my role is."

"Just learning the lessons that I did from being born on that day and how that's kind of shaped me. It has given me that purpose of, one day I hope to help people in some kind of way," he said.

Shrivastava admits he won't necessarily open a food bank or something like that but does want to make a difference to lives in "a real way."

For now, the softly spoken 19-year-old is focused on his studies at college, where he is in his third year.

Accepted by several universities, Shrivastava chose to study just three hours north of Manhattan in upstate New York.

Once he graduates in finance, probably in 2023, he cannot see himself working anywhere other than in the city of the World Trade Center.

"I feel like I'm connected with New York in a lot of ways," says Shrivastava.

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