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My 9/11

September 11, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

My three young children saw images from 9/11 and asked me about them the day before yesterday. I tried to explain as gently as I could what happened without making them feel unsafe, but it was hard for me.

One of these days, I will explain to my older daughter that she is a 9/11 baby of sorts, conceived in the direct aftermath of that horrible time. I was living in London then with my husband and on that day, my parents were with me. They were, in fact, on one of the last flights out of New York to London before it all happened. We went to my health club to work out. “Why is everyone just standing around?” I wondered when we walked in, and then I looked up at the televisions and saw but didn’t understand.

And I still can’t. I remember that my parents and I went to a garden in Chelsea the next day and it was so quiet. People had stayed home. The streets were half empty. International air space had shut down. No planes broke the blue sky. I remember my next door neighbor coming over to offer me tea and some good British backbone. I remember the crowds gathering at St. Paul’s for a memorial and the long silence they held.

In the weeks after the event, I watched a lot of news coverage, unable to process what was happening to my country while I wasn’t in it. Life wasn’t normal for me, anyway. My husband and I were trying to have a baby and couldn’t. I was seeing doctors and we were filling out adoption forms. Everything felt wrong for me inside and out, day after day.

And then, miracle of miracles, I found out that New Year’s Eve that I was pregnant.  All that spring, I sat with my growing belly watching TV coverage of Americans in Iraq. I watched US soldiers pull down the statue of Saddham. I watched protests and UN hearings, and I fretted about the state of the world I was bringing a child into.

My daughter was born collicky and wailing, high-strung to say the least. And she’s still emotional and sensitive today. She has a keen sense of justice, a poet’s eye, and empathy for those who need it. She is matter-of-factly fair about most things, loyal to the ones she loves, and brave without even knowing it. She is, in her heart, very American. She wants to be a cowgirl, likes a good rodeo and Fouth of July parade, even likes to square dance.

I think of her as my off-chance, my last chance, my lucky chance. And in a way, she is, along with all the other children born from that day, children conceived as people literally tried to bring themselves back to life. I ended up having two more children after her, but she is my first one, the one who changed me, the one who reminds me that life is not what is always should  be, or what we think it will be, but that, in spite of everything, it does, indeed, go on and thank god for that. Hug your children today. They need it. We need them more.

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