COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — For years, the response was always the same. A gasp, followed by a look of pity and then the question: "Have you given any thought to changing your son's birthday?"
Brynn Minnock laughs about it now, but when her son Jack was younger, she quietly seethed over the comments. "As if we had a choice about when our son was born!" she says. "It got to the point where I'd say: 'No, I wouldn't change Jack's birthday for anything. He was a good thing that happened on Sept. 11th.'"
While this Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., it also marks birthday No. 10 for Jack Minnock, who entered the world while the World Trade Center smoldered and a numb nation realized that life would never be the same.
It certainly hasn't been the same for the Minnocks, but "it's been different in a lucky way," says Jack's dad, Joe, a Salt Lake attorney.
Their first-born son is a "daily reminder that life is short and unpredictable," he says. "You never know what you're going to get out of life, and it can end suddenly. So you need to make the most of each day. You can't change that 9/11 happened, but you can do something positive for somebody else on that day."
I first met the Minnocks nine years ago, on their son's first birthday, when they wanted to share their story in Free Lunch in the hope of adding a bright touch to an otherwise grim first Sept. 11th anniversary.
Now, in honor of Jack's first decade, Brynn and Joe thought it would be a good idea to get together again, over pizza at the Cottonwood Heights home where they've added a second son — 5-year-old Alex — to the mix.
"Jack has always been extremely protective of his little brother — he's always looking out for Alex," notes Joe. "From the very beginning, he's always had a compassionate nature. Maybe it has something to do with being born on Sept. 11th."
A sunny fourth-grader with short, dark blond hair and bright brown eyes, Jack Minnock also has a keen interest in history and follows current events such as the war in Afghanistan with an enthusiasm that other boys reserve for Lego-building and computer games.
"I've just always found history interesting," he says, "but I like a lot of other things too, like soccer and hockey." He beams at the kitchen table over his extra-cheesy slice. "This morning, my team (the Dark Knights) won our soccer game 10 to 4."
When I last met with the Minnocks, Jack was flinging Cheerios from his high chair, wailing to be let down so he could show off his newly acquired stair-climbing skills. On the day he was born, Brynn recalls listening to her nurse with one ear and the television news with the other, shocked by what was unfolding in Manhattan, but relieved that her son was finally on his way.
"He was ready to come into the world, and I was ready to have him," she says. "What happened to our country on that day was huge. But I had something else to think about."
"Between watching the aftermath of the terrorist attacks and becoming a father for the first time," adds Joe, "it was like sensory overload."
Immediately after his birth at 7:27 p.m., Jack let out a cry and peed on the nurse. Then the very next day, the looks of sympathy began.
"People will always associate 9/11 with the dark things that can happen in the world," says Joe, "but to us, it will always be a reminder of the positive." He rumples his son's hair and laughs. "What do you think, Jack? How about if we change your birthday to Feb. 29? Then we'll only have to celebrate every four years."
Jack flashes his dad an exasperated look. No excuses, he tells his parents. "We're going roller-skating for my party this year on Sept. 11th."
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