An auspicious sign, the end of war, first moonwalk. Today’s date carries meaning for many of us.
My relationship with the number 11 started on 11-11-1976, the day I took my first breath in this world. Our friendship grew as I wore it on my back around courts and fields throughout my youth. Again, not my doing, just good luck that my twig figure demanded the smallest jersey. I came to like my buddy, number 11, betting on that horse when I visited the local racetrack and smiling whenever I caught a glimpse of 11:11 on a digital clock. I’d tell my friends and family, “Smile, it’s 11:11!”
It turns out I’m not this number’s only friend. It achieved elevated status among numbers worldwide when the Germans signed the Armistice with the Allied nations that ceased World War I fighting starting at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Americans celebrate this event every November 11th with the federal holiday Veterans Day while many other countries observe Remembrance Day, Armistice Day or Poppy Day (poppies bloomed across the battlefields).
In 1969, half of a century after World War I officially ended with the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, the number 11 grabbed the world’s attention again with Apollo 11 landing the first humans, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., on Earth’s moon. With this successful spaceflight, NASA achieved U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s goal of reaching the moon before the Soviet Union by the end of the 1960’s. Apollo 11 opened the doors for subsequent Apollo lunar landing missions.
Gamblers may or may not care that “the war to end all wars” ended on November 11, 1918 or that the Apollo 11 spaceflight may be our society’s greatest space accomplishment. Yet, they too, often smile upon seeing these two identical digits. Blackjack players may “double down” and craps players see it as good as a seven in the come out roll. Another count-focused set, numerologists—those who study the occult significance of numbers—often believe 11:11 is an auspicious sign or signals a spirit presence.
Children’s first encounter with 11 often comes with the scary realization that they cannot count that high using their eight fingers and two thumbs or say the number in just one or two syllables, as they could the positive integers before 11. Mathematicians, on the other hand, dig this number. First, it is the fifth smallest prime number (a natural number that can only be divided by 1 and itself) and the smallest two-digit prime. If you multiply the 9-digit number 111,111,111 by itself, you’ll get the palindrome, 12345678987654321. Even cooler, add your birth year’s last two digits plus your age this year to get an answer of 111 (or an answer of 11 if you were born in the current century). Really, try it.
In sports, several professional teams have retired their number 11 jerseys, including the New York Giants (Phil Simms), Detroit Pistons (Isiah Thomas), Los Angeles Angels (Jim Fregosi), and Washington Capitals (Mike Gartner). There are also exactly 11 team members on the field in soccer, American football, field hockey and cricket.
Country music fans may know Martina McBride’s newly released album, “Eleven.” Ellen DeGeneres used an even better name, “eleveneleven” for the record label she started last year, already signing YouTube sensations Greyson Chance and Savannah Robinson along with superstar Jessica Simpson. Adding one more iteration to the number, a horror-thriller film titled, “11-11-11,” enters theatres today and is set at 11:11 on the 11th day of the 11th month. It would have to win 11 Oscar awards to reach the maximum number achieved by any movie, joining the ranks of Ben-Hur, Titanic, and Lord of the Rings.
If, after all this, today still feels like any other day, I challenge you to give this date some meaning. Go ahead get married, open that special bottle of wine in your collection, attend a great performance. At the very least, smile it’s 11-11…11!