September 11, 2001. A day that changed our lives. It’s been referred to as this generation’s Kennedy assassination — everyone remembers where they were when it happened. As the unbelievable images flooded the TV and the tragedy unfolded, our brains struggled to comprehend the horror of what was happening in Lower Manhattan.
Four planes hijacked and intentionally crashed into three buildings — both towers of the World Trade Center in NYC and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. That third plane crashed into a remote area of Pennsylvania before it could reach its intended target.
I was pregnant with my favorite girl on this fateful day. My #1 son was a toddler in the throes of the terrible twos, and life was hectic. The day before the attack, I suffered what I thought was a terrible thing. I had my ultrasound to check the development and health of my unborn child. We wanted that child’s gender to be a surprise, as it was with my first pregnancy. So many things in this life of ours are structured and scheduled and planned to the hilt that the idea of hearing my OB-GYN say “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” very much appealed to me. My sweet mama, however, did not like that plan because it thwarted her shopping efforts for my unborn children. That motivated YaYa wanted to buy pink or blue, not gender-neutral colors. She disapproved, but I held firm, and we were indeed surprised and delighted to learn of that first baby’s gender at the moment he entered the world.
The men in my husband’s family like to close ranks, and produce lots and lots of boys. My hub is one of four boys, as is his dad and one uncle. There were 14 boys born in a row in that family. Girls seem to not be on the menu, and the hub’s family predicted yet another boy for the clan. When my #1 son entered the world in 1999, they likely smiled smugly at the interloper (me) who insisted there was a 50/50 chance either way. Boy or girl didn’t matter to me; either one would be great.
Fast forward a couple of years later and again I pursued my surprise. Despite the family history of lots of boys, I still didn’t want to know until that child’s birthday. At the ultrasound on September 10, 2001, we peered over my big belly to peek at the fuzzy image on the monitor. The baby on the screen appeared quite clearly and cooperated fully in our efforts to count fingers & toes while avoiding glimpses of the boy- or girl-parts. That baby cooperated fully, but did it with his/her right arm laid across his/her face, as if to convey the inconvenience he/she suffered as he/she afforded us a quick glimpse into that underwater world. Little did we know that this dramatic gesture in utero would prove to be a harbinger of things to come.
We laughed about the dramatic gesture but did not speculate as to the gender of the child-to-be who would act that way, even before being born. We were clear about not wanting to know. We reiterated our wish to be surprised. We said it multiple times in multiple ways. And still, the doctor slipped. My heart was broken.
I went to bed with a heavy heart and a perhaps misguided anger toward that blabby-mouthed doctor. I awoke to images on The Today Show that made no sense. My pity party was officially over.
A few months later, a baby girl was born.
The all-boy trend came to a screeching halt, and sugar & spice became the fragrance du jour. Trucks, dinosaurs, and baseballs were joined by fluffy stuffed toys, floral patterns, and giant hair bows.
Twelve years later, my #1 son and my favorite girl will discuss the al-Qaeda attacks in their social studies classes. A lot has changed in the 12 years since the terrorist attacks. My busy toddler is now a 9th grader, and that dramatic baby in my tummy is a 6th grader. Twelve years later, my little darlings are not all that little anymore, and before long they’ll be spreading their wings and setting off on their grown-up lives. The world is a different place now than it was before the terrorist attacks. More dangerous? Perhaps. Less secure? Certainly, at least in our minds.
We will never forget.