I remember exactly where I was on Sept. 11, 2001: at work with my KidsPost colleagues trying to figure out how we were going to explain the terrible and tragic events to children.
I imagine you remember where you were that day, too.
The question for today is, where will you be this Sept. 11, and on Sept. 11 from now on?
It's something Timothy Reynolds of Silver Spring has been thinking about. He noticed that the Montgomery County Historical Society is hosting something called "Happy Birthday Montgomery County" this Sept. 11. The day's activities will include living history presentations, exhibits, lectures, music and birthday cake.
"I began to wonder," Timothy wrote me, "whether I was the only one who thought that perhaps the scheduling was inappropriate."
Timothy said he didn't think the event should be called off, maybe just toned down. He stressed that he wasn't necessarily suggesting that 9/11 should become an official day of mourning.
"If every tragic event in our history -- even our relatively recent history -- were so designated, the black armbands would rarely come off," he said. "But I would hate to see Sept. 11 become just another day when we are still unsure of the outcome of the series of events it triggered."
Well, what about that? What should Sept. 11 be?
A Georgia woman named Mary Vasilik started an online petition requesting that a national holiday called Unification Day be set aside as "a national day of honor and remembrance." Some 208,000 people have signed it.
(On a recent visit to the PetitionOnline Web site, the most active proposals were one urging the U.S. Postal Service to issue a Jerry Garcia stamp and another pleading with MGM/United Artists to bring back the "American Gladiators" TV show. Each has fewer than 10,000 signatures.)
Three months after the attacks, Congress passed a resolution designating Sept. 11 Patriot Day. Every September since then, President Bush has issued a proclamation calling upon "the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities, including remembrance services and candlelight vigils." The proclamation also calls on Americans to fly their flags at half-staff on Sept. 11 and to observe a moment of silence beginning at 8:46 a.m. Eastern daylight time.
So: Observe the day with "appropriate" ceremonies and activities. Does that mean it shouldn't be sullied with inappropriate ones? And what exactly is inappropriate? Living history and slices of birthday cake? A lecture on the artist Raphael at the National Gallery of Art? Professional football? (The NFL has a full slate of games that day.)
Some of the best judges of public sentiment are the people at Hallmark, the greeting card conglomerate.
"As far as seeing a huge number of requests to celebrate the day like a holiday, we haven't seen that," said company spokeswoman Rachel Bolton. "However, I think our belief is that people want to mark it each year."
Hallmark tracks its sales meticulously. "Up till 9/11, Hallmark had tested but not found much interest in cards for Veterans Day," Rachel said. They offered their first Veterans Day cards in 2002, and they've been in demand ever since, with many retailers leaving them up beyond Nov. 11.
About two years ago, Hallmark introduced a line of cards called America's Heroes. Most feature a patriotic theme and are designed for soldiers, firefighters and police officers. Other cards have a more universal message, said Rachel.
"One card that comes to mind is a tree with a big yellow ribbon tied around it that kind of reflects longing and a feeling of hopefulness," she said.
And, Rachel said, the date still gives people pause. She and two friends always get together on their birthdays. One woman was born on Sept. 11.
"We would never plan it on the 11th," Rachel said. "She doesn't want to. It's like in each person's mind, there's etched something."
Which brings us back to the Montgomery County Historical Society. Karen Yaffe Lottes, the group's education director, said September is an especially problematic month for event planners. Summer's over. School's just started. There's Labor Day to dodge. She wants her event to be as close as possible to the county's actual founding date: Sept. 6, 1776.
There are a finite number of days in the month. And even so, she'll still end up going head to head with the Takoma Park Folk Festival, which is also on Sept. 11 this year.
"We knew there would be people who might be offended" by the date, Karen said. "I don't think they should be."
She thinks people can mark the attacks and attend her event, since most 9/11 memorial events are in the morning and her event is in the afternoon.
"I know that people everywhere are going to be doing something that morning to recognize what happened on September 11," she said. "At the same time, what better day to have a celebration about our history and heritage and who we are as Americans than on September 11, which is a day when people tried to take that away from us?"
I agree. The whole message of this odd war on terrorism that we're fighting is that life must go on, whether on the subways of London or the byways of Rockville.
Now, if we start seeing signs for a "Sept. 11 Sale-a-Bration" at the car dealership, that's another story.
What do you think? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or write John Kelly, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.