I wake to the radio and roll from my left side, belly swollen with the life of our first baby, to my back. Tight and downturned voices say New York City and towers and planes crashing into buildings. I struggle to understand the words, turn off the radio and head to the living room.
I watch airplanes colliding with glass and metal, and it cannot be real. Announcers speak of “terrorists” and “planned attacks” and “not an accident,” and I hold my belly.
How can I bring this tender life into this terrifying world?
I weep at the images, cry over the words, as husbands and wives and fiances and children and brothers and sisters and friends and coworkers and fathers and mothers hold photos and speak about their love, their mama, their daddy, their babies.
When Michael wakes, we cling to each other. We say little. There’s nothing.
Later that morning, I visit our dear friends and their eight-day old baby girl, and their faces are weary bliss, and I can tell they don’t know. So I have to tell them, and I feel like I am bringing the dark in with me. It does not belong here.
There are chain link fences and candles. Bouquets of flowers and poems. Memorials and missing persons’ posters.
And mothers. Faces anguish and sorrow. Desolation.
Talking about their boys, their girls.
Expecting a baby of his own.
The most loving person you could ever meet.
A devoted mother.
These adult children forever the ones they cradled.
I try to explain the unexplainable to the girls I mentor, and my heart aches. And they don’t understand. And I don’t either. I say, please feel free to talk to me about it, and they barely do. Then I say, It doesn’t make sense. It just doesn’t.
I walk through hallways of my office and feel the color fade from walls and photos.
I pray and call out, God come. I write pages in my journal, trying to unravel the knots and puddles of gray.
I clutch my belly. Rub hands over this little life and pray for her, in this world.
I feel like life will never be the same.
Eleven years later, I remember collective sorrow and our real, yet fleeting unity, and I remember the tears.
Today, I recall the fathers and mothers who held and lost before I knew my baby on the outside.
In the days following the September 11th attacks, I read the Psalms and continued to scan the paper for survivors. Any signs of hope.
Hope for them. Hope for me. Hope for this still-forming baby in my body.
I don’t know anyone who died that day, but I know a girl born.
They live states away from us now. But one Sunday, September 11th morning, years ago, her dad came to the front of the church after our prayers of remembrance and announced that his daughter — his beautiful, full of life, wavy-haired, lean-limbed girl — entered the world on that September 11th.
On the day I clutched my belly, she opened her mouth and announced her arrival. On the day I wept afraid, this wrinkled package cried life.
In collective hearts. In eyes as we look upon blue skies and recall dark clouds of smoke and dust. In the daily celebrations and losses of mothers and fathers. In the what-has-happened and in the what-if.
In moments of startling clarity and moments of utter confusion.
In their long limbs and hair aswirl, in their plaintive calls and throats lilting with song.
This day of sorrow, too, a day of life.
Today, as I do many Tuesdays, I’m linking up with “Just Write” (an exercise in free writing everyday moments), at The Extraordinary Ordinary.
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Beautiful rememberence & picture of how you “felt” this horrific event in our history! I was a senior in high school at the time & also remember waking up to it on the radio & then spending much of the school day watching the events unfold on TV (my family didn’t have a TV)…it was so scary & numbing, yet so far away from our life in OR!
Rembering our dear friend’s daughter’s birth that day is a good reminder of the how new life continues to be born even out of horrific situations…a good reminder of God’s presence with us!
Thank you so much for sharing your own memories and thoughts, my friend. Scary and numbing…I think that sums up the experience of so many of us when we witness tragedy that feels near and far at once.
I like that, Becca. I can add Ashley’s memory to mine of that morning. That AM my wife and I had been watching the Today Show to catch Al’s weather report for NYC as we had planned a trip to Greene’s Wholesale Beads in the Garment District of Manhattan which is 4 or 5 blocks from Ground Zero, and were just headed out the door. I appreciate this life filled memory’s welcome impact on an otherwise pretty horrific day. Thanks!
Wow, Don, I had no idea how close you were to the tragedy of that day. I can only imagine all the levels of emotion you experienced and may feel again as we remember. Thank you for sharing.
To add to the sorrow, and to the joy, she was not the only one bringing joy into our lives on that day. My cousin was born too on that almost unthinkable day, yet exactly as you said, a day that also brought life.
While I was stuck on the Army base that came to a shuddering halt, no one in no one out, she birthed that sweet boy. Just God’s way a bringing hope and joy into an otherwise somber occasion, Happy 11th Birthday to those who arrived!!!
Wow, Michelle. What a day that must have been for you — on the base, all that uncertainty, with new life joining your family. Unbelievable the joy and sorrow mingling together. So many lost, so many born…life continuing. Thank you for sharing your memories, Michelle.
This is the most beautiful thing I have read today regarding September 11th.
So right when you say real, yet fleeting unity.
So good, so raw. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you so much, Krystle, for your comment, and for your encouragement today.
Each one of us who was alive to witness the events of 9/11, has our own perspectives, our own memories–most of us know exactly where we were and what we were doing when we first heard the news. Thank you for sharing yours, a perspective that is full of life and hope.
Thank you, Sissy. I love you.
Ashley, thank you for your words, your story, your memory. That day was so emotional for me, it was a month before I started at FOTC, I remember thinking…what do my (unknown) girls think today, are they scared, could I help them through this nightmare?
This last May I was in NYC and went to “ground zero”, went to the musuem and walked around the area….so many emotions, cryed so many tears, wondering: how did people get through the day, the week, the years…what amazing strength these NYCer have shown us! My heart aches for the survivers and also feel great admiration for them.
Oh, Sally. Thank you so much for sharing this perspective. I can’t imagine what Ground Zero must be like.
It was a painful time to mentor those dear girls. Such shock. Such a horrible shift in our realities. And how to explain or do much of anything but just sit in our sadness together, and say this is so horrendous, and somehow everything will be ok.
To experience Ground Zero in person would bring such a rush of emotion. You’re right, Sally — we have much to learn from the people of NYC. Bless them all. Each survivor, each one who’s lost the indescribable, each one.
So thoughtful and sensitive, waking painful memories in all of us. As soon as it happened many of us realized that things would never be the same. Our views upon the horrific and senseless cruelty changed us as citizen and country forever. Thank you for this evocative writing. Your love and deep caring shows through each thought expressed. God bless our country, Love, Papi
Thank you, Papa. Yes, it was a horrific awakening. Such pain in those moments of stark “before” and “after.” And for those who experienced deep personal loss on that day, as well — nearly unfathomable.
Ashley my own dear girl….this touched me so much I could barely speak of it. So powerfully written, this was. The pain you must have remembered and relived as you brought it back to the present to share with us. Life as we know it … so full of the exquisite and the horrific, the brilliant and banal, selfless and selfish…good and evil…blessings and curses. Birthing and dying. Sometimes I wonder at how we live in the midst of such extremes…but then I know, we do so by holding onto that which is golden and Good. And we remind one another of what is Life and Love when what is dark seems to crush. We hold to one another and we love with all the fullness our hearts can hold. Thank you Ashley for writing this….it was brave. And good. I love you so.
Mama, I love your words: “we [live in this painful world] by holding onto that which is golden and Good. And we remind one another of what is Life and Love when what is dark seems to crush. We hold to one another and we love with all the fullness our hearts can hold.” Amen.
Thank you Ashley. My Mom & I went to a lovely remembrance in the charming town of Healdsburg, California, where a monument made with an i-beam? from the W. Trade Center, was dedicated to the city. Four fire trucks were there, one with the American flag hanging from its tall ladder. So heartbreaking hearing the names read once again. I, too, love your Mama’s words.
Oh, Deb. I’ve never been to a commemoration in person…I can only imagine how hard to hear those names and see those tributes.