Like for so many others, Tuesday, September 11, 2001 stands out in my mind like no other day. My husband and I awoke to a day of horror and destruction unparalleled in our lifetime when we heard of the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., and later the tragedy in Pennsylvania. It was also the day before the given due date for our first child. In the span of a few hours, our whole perspective on the world into which we would bring our little girl shifted dramatically.
Hugely pregnant, I was certain that day I was going to go into labor. Short of breath. Nauseous. Near hysteria. I was sure it was “showtime.” Alas, no, it was not time. Tall, as we often refer to her, was not ready. In reality, I probably wasn’t either. Perhaps I needed that time to grieve and reflect with America and the rest of the world.
The chaos and confusion of those first few days after the attacks was frightening. Was there more? Were we safe? We just didn’t know. The sound of F-16 jets today, still brings the hair on my arms to attention as I recall those frequent post 9/11 fly-overs around San Francisco Bay, where we lived at the time. And then their was the sadness. Oh, such sadness washed over us all as the impact of that day became reality. I like so many was glued to the television those days after the attacks seeking information and probably looking for a way to connect to the events on the East coast as we felt so utterly helpless. I wept constantly for the loss, for the stories that we were hearing of lives lost, heroes, and even the occassional miracle as survivors shared their stories. Of course the stories that brought me to my weepiest mess were the stories of parents and sons or daughters lost. I constantly asked myself, most likely clutching my swollen belly, what kind of world were we now living in? Could my husband and I parent through this craziness, this pure evil? We just didn’t know.
Eleven days passed. Eleven, heart wrenching days past before Tall arrived, and only at the threat of inducement, which we both avoided by mere hours. Just after six in the morning on September 22, 2001, she arrived. All screaming, 8 pounds, 7 ounces and 22 inches of her. She was beautiful and perfect. Well, nearly perfect, since she swallowed meconium and developed an infection that put her in NICU for five days less than twenty-four hours after her birth. More tears, but we quickly knew she was going to be okay. We knew our little family was going to be okay in the bigger picture of things, too.
Today, that special baby turns ten. She is one of the most compassionate kids I know, with a huge, huge heart. So big, I think it sometimes hurts her for just how much she feels for others. I’d like to think a little bit of that heart comes from sitting with me in utero, grieving right along side me, awash with sadness. She was the bit of sunshine we needed to lift our spirits. And she still is, as she slowly crawls through childhood on her way to becoming the beautiful, caring young woman I know she will be. But September 22, 2001 will always be the day we finally had a reason to smile. Happy Birthday, sweetheart.