As I think back to that fateful Tuesday, September 11, 2001, my life was in a very good place. My husband had just graduated from law school and I had taken a leave from my teaching job to pursue a master’s degree in literacy. My dad was still alive, we were living with him and we were trying for our first baby. We had so much to look forward to at that time…
After my husband took the bar exam, we rented a condo in Miami for six weeks. We originally planned on coming back home after September 11th, but ran out of things to do and were missing home in Brooklyn, NY so we left a week early. We were truly in a state of peace, relaxation and excitement about what our lives had to offer us in the years to come. That beautiful, September morning, both my husband and I were home together. I, still in bed, was woken up by him saying “a plane just hit the World Trade Center. They think it is some kind of navigational error.” After I put on my gym clothes, I went downstairs and watched the TV with him. The reporter said over and over “some kind of navigational error” and we continued to watch. Then it happened: the TV went black, then to fuzz, then back on again.
The reporter continued to say “navigational error” but we knew better as we both yelled at the TV after the second plane hit. This was no navigational error; it was terrorism and we couldn’t believe what we were witnessing in our city, the city we called home our entire lives. At first, there was shock and disbelief, and then, as reality set in, we asked ourselves who did we know that are in the buildings. As cliche as it is to say, it was surreal; that is the ONLY way to describe the events of that day. I remember where I was the day the space shuttle Challenger exploded--in the back of my mom’s big green 1970’s Cadillac Coupe De Ville. That was a major event, but when I think back to September 11, 2001, I can remember the desperate feeling of going from having the world in the palm of my hand to having the rug ripped out from under everything I knew to be safe and stable--not only in my life, but in the world. I immediately put my baby plans on hold.
Becoming a parent was not something I took lightly. I had been preparing for it diligently by becoming a teacher to learn all about child development and discussing parenting details with my husband since before we were married. I didn’t know how I could bring a new baby into this new, terrifying world. A world where I was wearing sneakers everywhere I went in case I had to flee an explosion or collapsing skyscraper. But eventually, after the literal dust had settled and I accepted the new reality, I realized I’d have to be brave if I wanted to have the life I dreamed of since I fell in love with my husband. In February 2003, we welcomed our first child, a son, and would go on to have two more boys.
As September 11th rolls around once again, my first baby is approaching his 13th birthday and he has two younger brothers ages 7 and 3. Only when another such tragedy hits will they grasp a true understanding of what 9/11 feels like for those of us who lived to watch people we loved die right before our very eyes. Watching two massive, seemingly indestructible buildings reduced to rubble right before our very eyes. Buildings that were the heart of the biggest city in the world. I pray that they never have to see such destruction and devastation, but I know they may have to go through this as well given the new and scarier terrorists that are rising and have given a whole new meaning to terror.
Having an almost 13 year old puts parenting into a new perspective. The notion that your child will be small forever starts to fade as you take them to their first sleep away camp and allow them new freedoms. Especially because here in our very sheltered suburban community we are in a protective bubble and many of the world’s evils are kept at a great distance. You know that they have to go out into this scary world at some point because it is inevitable.
Last night at back to school night in our middle school, the principal said this was his first year not having any students born before 9/11. However, despite the fact that they will never understand what it was like to live through that day, we can teach them service and remembrance. Service and remembrance…excellent words. If anything else I would add bravery. Having lived through 9/11, in order to continue living, and I mean enjoying life, you have to be brave. In order to want to bring children into this new world, you have to be brave. In order to raise your children and let them go out and be independent in this crazy, crazy world, you have to be brave… Everyday, as a mom to three boys that I love with every ounce of my being, three boys that I can’t live without, three boys who will eventually go out on their own, I tell myself (ALL THE TIME!) that I have to be brave…
This year on 9/11, may we all serve one another to the level we did immediately post 9/11, may we remember all the souls lost that fateful day, and may we continue to BE BRAVE in the face of terror!