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.