Most of us have a story, remembered emotion or connection to what happened on Sept. 11, 2001. There are hundreds of thousands of Facebook posts, blog posts, news articles and tweets about September 11th.
There is no doubt that the impact of September 11th goes well beyond any single person, or fire company, or firehouse, or city, or state, or country. The original attack may have been on New York City and the Pentagon, plus the failed hijacking that ended in Pennsylvania, but it united a country, and its impact rippled across the world.
On this day, I always remember the early morning phone call from my mother on the East Coast. I was living in San Francisco at the time and was wondering why she was calling me so early. What could be so urgent at this hour? Did I forget someone's birthday? Was she about to purchase plane tickets for a visit and needed to confirm dates? Was someone sick?
Instead it was her urgent plea for me to not drive over the Golden Gate Bridge that morning to work at the Marin Independent Journal in Novato.
"Did I have any idea what was happening right now?" she asked. "The Golden Gate Bridge could be the next target. A plane could come that way." She sounded almost hysterical.
What in the world was this woman talking about? I haven’t even had my coffee yet.
I turned on the TV and watched in disbelieve as I saw plumes of smoke billowing from the World Trade Center towers and then suddenly melt to the ground in a pile of unfathomable rubble, people running, sirens going off, grit flying through the air, and the confusion and chaos that ensued.
At that moment, I knew — no matter how surreal it seemed — that something really terrible was happening in the world.
Drip coffee at the office would have to do. I had to get to the newsroom right away even if it meant driving over the Golden Gate Bridge.
My family knew people who died on 9/11, many who left small children behind. The day is a constant reminder of their loss and hardship, and how their lives and our lives and our nation and world have changed ever since. It brings our country’s place in the world to front-of-mind, reminding us of our differences in cultures, religion and worldviews, and about what also unites us. It put the word “terrorism” in our daily conversations, the Middle East as an important place on the map, and a fear factor in everything we do.
I have seen news articles and video of ground zero that have made me realize how little of that day I actually understand. One thing I'm sure of, though. We are a country with differences so great that others cannot understand how we can possibly be unified.
But now September 11 has another meaning for me. It’s the day my daughter was born. She’s turning six today, and when I tell people her birth date, I see them waver and the hesitation in their eyes at the mere mention of “September 11.” It is such a loaded date. My daugher does not understand this yet, but she will when she’s a bit older. After all, we carry this day with us every day, as will our children and our children’s children. “We shall never forget” as they say about 9/11.
The day my daughter was born Sept. 11, 2006, there were no C-sections scheduled that day. The maternity ward felt like a ghost town compared to when my first daughter was born at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco in 2003.
I went into the hospital on September 10 around 6 p.m. and really hoped she would be born by midnight to miss the September 11 birthday. Even the nurses were cheering for me. No one wants to deliver on the ill-fated day of September 11, right?
It wasn't until 5 p.m. on September 11 that she was finally born. I endured almost 24 hours of labor, and it truly wasn’t easy. There were some complications like a detached placenta and some other gory details I don’t need to go into. My daughter came out with some trouble breathing and an umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. She was quickly whisked away from me the second she hit the delivery room air.
What got me through that labor wasn't only the fight for her life, it was also the date “September 11” stamped in my mind. In those excruciating last hours and minutes and seconds during her birth, I was determined to bring life into the world on a day when so many lives had been taken away.
And then there she was. Purple and screaming, but alive, strong and beautiful.
It was certainly a comfort to know she was going to be OK, and that my mother had flown in safely from Connecticut and was waiting for us at home to help with a new baby in the house.
I would be sugar-coating this story if I told you we brought home an angel. The following few years after her birth were filled with colicky days and sleepless nights as well as some other issues we overcame. This stage eventually slipped into a blur of a time spent chasing, civilizing and wrangling an extremely active, vocal and willful toddler. This child was certainly not going to let me forget September 11th!
However what stands before me now is a healthy, sweet, strong kindergartener, with dreams to be on a gymnastics team one day, full of the resolve and promise that is in all of us ever since 9/11.
Today we reflect upon the darkest day in our history. But in our family we also celebrate a life and are reminded to enjoy the blessings of freedom and to continue living the resolve we have as Americans.
Happy Birthday, sweet girl. You make me proud every day of the year, especially on September 11.