Halfway through my second pregnancy in early September, I went for my sonogram appointment. This would be my second sonogram — the one in which the baby’s gender could be revealed. Trevor and I had opted to not find out, wanting to be surprised as we had been with Payton. There are so few genuine surprises in life, and we wanted to hear “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy!” at the moment of birth.
Even though we had specified our preference to keep the baby’s gender a surprise, something went wrong at that appointment, and the doctor and sonogram technician let it slip. My surprise was ruined. I was devastated in the manner of a hormonally-charged, type-A mother who was stressed from dealing with a shockingly willful toddler at home. I thought this was the worst thing that could happen to me.
Little did I know that within 3 years, my sweet mama would be taken from the Earth by the vicious beast that is cancer, and that I myself would go toe-to-toe with said beast.
The date of the ruined sonogram was September 10th, 2001–the day before the bottom fell out of our collective world, and showed me in no uncertain terms that I had no earthly idea about the worst thing that could ever happen to me. I went to bed that night sad and frustrated and pissed off at the doctor and technician. How hard would it have been for them to pay attention, follow the rules, and NOT disclose the baby’s gender? Sheesh. I cried self-centered tears and railed against what I thought to be a great injustice.
Then I woke up on September 11th, eyes puffy from those self-centered tears, feeling exhausted from the travesty that had unfolded the previous day. I grumpily said good-bye to Trevor as he left for work, probably thrilled to bits to have someplace to go in which to escape his melodramatic, hormonal wife. Can’t blame him; in fact, I wished I had someplace to go in which I could escape myself.
Two-year-old Payton had spent the night with my parents across town while his cousins were visiting. I was getting ready to go meet them and start our busy day. A trip to the zoo with my rowdy toddler and his 2 young cousins would require me to ease out of my funk over the ruined surprise, and I was gearing up for that challenge.
I turned on the TV to catch the morning news as I dressed and ate breakfast and was confronted with the startling images from New York City. My pity party over the ruined surprise came to a screeching halt.
At first, no one was sure what had happened beyond a plane crashing into the World Trade Center. At first, no one suspected it was anything but a terrible accident. At first, no one could comprehend that someone would do this on purpose.
I called my parents, in shock and disbelieving. I needed another human to tell me they were seeing the same thing I was seeing, even thought I’d already confirmed it was on every channel. Except PBS. My parents, at home with 3 young kids, had Barney on TV instead of the news (that’s the kind of grandparents they were — and my dad still is). I had the unfortunate job of severing their domestic bliss that day. Surrounded by their 3 grandkids, with another on the way, they were no doubt in hog heaven. The bliss was short-lived.
The attacks on September 11th are my generation’s Kennedy assassination. I doubt anyone will ever forget where they were and what they were doing that morning.
I’m a milestones kind of girl. I like concrete things in my life, and I’m not talking about driveways. I like a tangible, structured world, and milestones are a big part of that. Some milestones are happy, like Payton‘s and Macy‘s birthdays; some are poignant and sad, like the anniversary of my mom’s death; some are sobering, like my first cancer-versary.
As Trevor and I looked at the newspaper today, he wondered why we commemorate this event–why would we want to remember and make a big fuss over our defeat?
Good question, but to me, the remembering isn’t about the defeat or even the event as much as it is the people. The innocent victims, the grieving families, the stunned citizens thousands of miles away from NYC, the public servants who rose to the occasion, putting their own lives and health at risk to serve others and do things that fall so far outside of their official job duties as to be unimaginable.
Perhaps it’s impossible to separate the people from the event. Perhaps they are so intertwined as to render a separation not feasible.
The bravery shown by the first responders that day defies commentary. Firefighter Mike Kehoe was one of many who put his own life on the line this day 10 years ago. Like a salmon swimming upstream, he was going up while hordes of desperate people fled the South Tower.
There are no words to adequately convey the selflessness, the courage, the principles. The walking wounded must have been overwhelming to these brave souls, yet they kept going.
The images are numerous, and the stories of heroism are legendary — both in size and in scope. On September 11, 2001, when American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the North Tower at 8:46 a.m. ET at 466 mph, between the 93rd and the 99th floors, and when United flight 175 crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m. ET at 590 mph, between the 77th and 85th floors, our world changed forever.
Meanwhile, American Airlines flight 77 took off from Dulles Airport in DC, bound for Los Angeles. With 5 hijackers on board, it crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m. ET. All 59 people on board plus 125 on the ground were killed.
When United flight 93 departed Newark, that same morning at 8:42–40 minutes late–a new group of posthumous heroes was born. Todd Beamer’s command of “Let’s roll” as the passengers confronted the hijackers became a rallying cry for the entire nation. Beamer’s wife, Lisa, was pregnant with a baby girl, same as me. She delivered Morgan Kay two days before I delivered Macy. A simple twist of fate dictated that Morgan would grow up without her daddy while Macy had hers by her side.
With a simple twist of fate, lives changed, and something so unimaginable had happened to the greatest nation on Earth. Flight 93 crashed to the ground near Shanksville, PA, 124 miles away from our nation’s capitol, at 10:03 a.m. ET. The 40 people — passengers and crew — on board that plane gave up their own lives to ensure that the hijackers’ plan to crash into the White House would not come to fruition.
The images we watched that morning on live TV didn’t seem real, and our brains struggled to process what we were seeing but could not believe.
In ways big and small, our world changed. Forever.
Our sense of security, in general, was shattered. Things we’d taken for granted–US superiority, the safety of our skies, the normalcy of life in America–were upended.
We were about to learn that life would never be the same. Even thousands of miles from Ground Zero, the Pentagon, and the field in rural Pennsylvania, and even though we didn’t personally know anyone who died that day, our lives would never be the same.
We’ve all heard the horrifying numbers, yet 10 years later they still seem surreal. Some 3,000 people died from the attacks on this day 10 years ago. 343 New York firefighters. 23 New York cops. 37 Port Authority police officers. 658 people from one company, Cantor Fitzgerald.
More than 1,600 people lost their spouse or partner that day. And more than 3,051 kids lost a parent. This is what is worth remembering.
(all images courtesy of googleimages. com, nationalgeograhic.com, and my iPhotos)