East Valley girl born on 9/11 embraces the spirit of hope - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

East Valley girl born on 9/11 embraces the spirit of hope

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Mark J. Scarp is a contributing columnist for the Tribune. Reach him at mscarp1@cox.net.

Posted: Sunday, September 11, 2011 4:30 pm | Updated: 2:52 pm, Fri Sep 16, 2011.

Being born on Valentine’s Day doesn’t automatically make you a more caring person than most.

You’re not more grateful than others just because your birthday is on Thanksgiving, or more charitable because you came into this world on Dec. 25.

There are exceptions, of course. George M. Cohan didn’t write the lyrics, “… born on the Fourth of July” in “Yankee Doodle Dandy” out of thin air. The composer of that tune and “You’re a Grand Old Flag” actually was born on July 4, and biographies of him say it took several years to convince the boy Cohan that Fourth of July parades in his town weren’t being held in his honor.

Recently we have a new date for such comparisons. Today is Mackenzie York’s 10th birthday. The Chandler girl’s birth, hours after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., was profiled in the Tribune as her first birthday neared in 2002.

Since then, she’s become quite a caring, quite a grateful, quite a charitable and quite a patriotic young woman.

Her parents, Matt and Rachel York, say that their daughter had an affinity for American flags since she was barely able to walk. And, speaking of George M. Cohan, Matt said Mackenzie loved to sing “You’re a Grand Old Flag” with Daddy over and over.

“You don’t know how many times she sang that song when she was little,” Matt said. “She adored flags.”

You might think it’s tough for a kid to share her birthday with a national tragedy. As that Sept. 8, 2002, Tribune article reported, it was tough for her parents to express the joy of their child’s birth on a day of such utter sadness.

But as Mackenzie grew up and gradually was able to understand it, her parents would talk about 9/11 with her. Her response was unexpected.

You might expect a child in her situation might be jealous, or at least fearful. Some kids might just prefer not to think about it, instead concentrating only on gifts and goodies.

Mackenzie went past that.

Some weeks back she contacted guests to her 10th birthday party, which was to have been held Saturday, and gave them little glass containers. She asked them to fill them with coins as they came upon loose change. And on the day of the party, they were to bring to Mackenzie’s house not presents, but the money.

It is to be put together into a contribution to Feed My Starving Children, a charity that ships donated food to hungry children in Somalia and other nations of the Horn of Africa, some of the most impoverished places in the world.

Mackenzie said she got the idea to do something truly meaningful for others from her Girl Scout cookie sale.

“At each sale you asked people to buy extra boxes for soldiers overseas,” she said. Her group’s efforts resulted in more than 1,700 boxes for the troops.

“We got to take turns putting up a flag in front of the house and have your picture taken with it,” she said.

The flag and the photos of the girls went along with the cookies.

Mackenzie said it doesn’t bother her that she wasn’t going to get presents at her party.

“It made me think that people all over the world need hope, because sad things happen,” she said.

Rachel York said when others learn her daughter’s birthday, the reaction is not usually melancholy.

“It makes other people happy when they hear it’s her birthday,” Rachel said. “The day is surrounded by tragedy, but when they find out about her, it’s, ‘Wow! Cool.’ ”

Fewer people know about Mackenzie York than about another Arizona girl born on the very same day a decade ago.

Christina-Taylor Green of Tucson would have been 10 today. She, too, was quite the patriotic sort. Chosen for her student council, she went with a family friend last January to a shopping center to meet a member of Congress, a job she might well have dreamed of having someday.

Mackenzie said she knows who Christina was. But being born on a certain day doesn’t require everyone born on that day to take the same approach.

“Mackenzie won’t be a politician,” Rachel said of her quiet, reserved daughter. “She’s more behind the scenes.”

Mackenzie has a little brother now, 5-year-old Zachary, who has a big sister worth looking up to. She was born on Sept. 11, 2001, and despite what that date implies, she’s made of her life so far the opposite of suffering and loss.

More than most at such an age, she’s focused on offering hope.

• Mark J. Scarp (mscarp1@cox.net) is a Tribune contributing columnist whose opinions appear here on Sundays.

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