I’m not trying to be blasé about it. Or to denigrate the fact that so many died needlessly. Believe me, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing on that day, and I worked myself crazy, shaking like a leaf in the wind for a whole lot of reasons.
September 11th is most definitely a day that will live in infamy, but it is also a day that will live in my mind and heart…..
Because it is for me, before anything, a birthday. Our son’s birthday. That day, 9/11/01 was our son’s fourth birthday.
I had baked cupcakes for his daycare group the night before, and frosted them that morning–half chocolate, half vanilla. I packaged them up, got him and them over to daycare without incident, and went into work.
I was met by our news director bringing a TV into the main breakroom area off the cubicles, where we gathered for meetings, lunch, and brainstorming sessions. I worked at the time for the National Public Radio affiliate on the University of Missouri’s campus, and when I asked what was going on, he responded briefly with “plane crash. Could be another one”. Just as we turned the TV on, all hell and chaos began to break loose. The Twin Towers. Then The Pentagon. Then everything else. I had time to send off e-mails to family in Washington, DC about other family in New York, and to make phone calls to my mom and sister-in-law. I texted my husband in Jefferson City–they were locking down the Capitol where he was Museum Director at the time. Then I got down to business; editing sound as stories came in, and sending it into the air booth, where we continued wall-to-wall coverage of the unspeakable.
Would I get to our son’s birthday party at daycare that afternoon? Were various members of my family all right, a thousand miles away? Would my husband get home that night? Every time I allowed my thoughts to spill over into that realm, my stomach would churn and my hands would shake. It took both hands to move the mouse to digitally edit the sound files.
At one point a sandwich and a drink appeared in front of me…I ate mechanically, knowing I must. Then a tap on the production room door, and a message that I could go if I needed to–they knew it was Z’s birthday. I left, but the chaos remained with me.
Fast forward 13 years…our son’s 17th birthday. What a young man he has become! Strong, independent, vibrant, known for his long blond ponytail, his love of good coffee, and his willingness to ride his bicycle in any weather. He is creative, with a deep passion for music and theater. What does he remember of that birthday so long ago? “Tension”, he says, sipping on an iced tea as we sit in the kitchen on a muggy September evening. “A feeling that something wasn’t right…you telling me that everything was OK, but many people had been hurt far away. I thought a big porch or balcony had fallen somewhere.” His dad and I didn’t fully explain what had actually happened until four years or so later, when it was discussed in his second-grade classroom. He would get angry when people gave him strange looks and made comments about how weird it was that 9/11 was his birthday. We celebrate the birthday quietly… joyfully, but quietly.
Right now it’s September 10th, almost 11:30 p.m.–17 years ago, I was in the process of bringing the young man in the next room into the world, and my husband (asleep at the moment) was holding my hand. Thirteen years ago, the world shifted into a whole new and frightening paradigm, and I wasn’t sure what would happen to the three of us in the next 24 hours. Now? I am grateful for each day, each month, and each year. And call me crazy, but somehow, something keeps me hopeful for the future.