When it is dark enough, you can see the stars. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Where were you when you first heard about the events on September 11th, 2001? It’s one of those moments in your life when you feel the weight and heaviness of the world around you. At least I did. Literally. I was 9 months pregnant and due on September 12th.
I had just dropped our 2 year-old son off at daycare when I heard on the radio that a plane had run into the first tower of the World Trade Center. The newscasters were saying a pilot had lost control and flown into the tower by mistake. They said it was a small plane. By the time I’d driven home, everything had changed. My mother and Italian mother-in-law were in town to help out with the new baby. I walked in the front door to find the mothers gathered around the television. And we watched in horror as the second plane hit.
We were having our house painted at the time, and I remember rushing outside and telling the painters to come inside, quickly. They were Brazilian and spoke little English, but it seemed important to me that everyone bear witness to what was happening. Shyly, they all shuffled into my living room. No one sat down. We all stood like statues in front of the tv. And I remember wrapping both arms around my over-ripe belly and holding onto the new life inside me as the world came tumbling down.
And I decided not to have the baby. As if I could wish away my labor just like that, it was just too bad a world to bring a baby into it. I thought, I’ll wait a few months until this whole thing blows over. December is a much better month to give birth in. How can I bring a baby into all this tragedy?
We had friends and family who worked in the towers. One had scheduled a meeting in another part of the city and was not in the building. Another was in the lobby of Tower One when it was struck. A fireball blew him out into the street. He was rescued by an investment banker who put him on a ferry to a New Jersey hospital. He survived. A third friend we never heard from again, and now, his name is etched in stone at the Ground Zero memorial.
Every September 11th, at this time in the morning, I am drawn to sit for a moment and just take in the silence. And I feel that weight again: the weight of those buildings crashing to the ground, the tsunami of smoke and debris blowing down streets, the weight of sadness and loss, but also I remember the weight of my beautiful daughter inside me.
Yes, there are images etched in my mind that will never go away. But there are also gestures of kindness both large and small that soften the memories for me. Within hours, it seemed our neighborhood became decorated with American flags. On television, I’ll never forget watching the royal band at Buckingham Palace playing our National Anthem. And that evening, I remember hearing musicians in Harvard Square, singing Bob Marley’s One Love.
Most of all, I remember feeling that a new baby was just the thing this exhausted, sad and tumbled-down world needed.
My daughter was born a week after 9/11, and her sweet presence was a bright spark in a place that seemed suddenly dark and all too quiet. Where were you on that day? What do you remember?