On September 11, 2001, I had an 8:00 AM appointment with my New England obstetrician. The appointment was scheduled to be an important one—I was to find out the gender of my very first child, who was three months en utero. I was so excited I practically flew instead of drove to my doctor’s office. My husband followed in the car behind me. He also couldn’t wait to learn the baby’s sex. Since we work in different parts of our state, we were going to drive to my doctor’s separately and then head off to our respective jobs.
I drove to my doctor’s office singing along loudly to whatever 80’s tunes were playing. I laughed along with the DJ and turned the music up. Every time I stopped for a red light I’d wave to my husband and watch him in my rear view mirror wave back at me. Then I’d rub my growing belly and ask my baby if he or she liked the music, too.
When we finally arrived to my doctor’s office it was odd to see my husband get out of the car with his brow furrowed, his expression dark.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“The radio just said an airplane hit one of the Trade Towers.”
“Really? How odd. It’s probably just a small bi-plane that clipped a wing against one of the buildings. I hope the pilot’s safe and that it’s no big deal.”
We agreed there probably wasn’t any more to the story. How wrong we were.
In our excitement over our baby we hustled into the doctor’s office where I was promptly given an ultrasound. I beamed shortly thereafter, learning I was carrying a boy. Knowing the sex of the baby somehow made my pregnancy seem all the more real. It must have worked on my husband, too, since he was giddy was with joy. Our hearts were never as full as it had been right at that moment.
When our appointment was up we walked out past the reception desk. We were confused to see the staff siting around staring at TV’s.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“One of the World Trade Towers went down,” one of the receptionists said, her voice trembling.
My heart, filled with pure joy minutes before, skipped a beat. My blood turned to ice. I fought back a stomach heave that had nothing to do with morning sickness. “No!” I cried. “It can’t be. New York City is my home.”
No one but my husband heard me. He put his arm around me as he walked me out. I was hunched over and crying. I was born and raised in New York City, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. I graduated New York City Public Schools. My mother still lived in Manhattan.
“Oh my God, my mother!” I shouted. We tried to call her, but our calls did not get through for hours. When I finally got hold of her, I wanted to cry with relief.
By the time I arrived at my office I learned the second Twin Tower had fallen.
My backyard destroyed.
How many trips with my friends did I take downtown, only to have those happy memories gone? Along with the poor souls in the Twin Towers, as well as DC and Pennsylvania that day. At least I would live. And my new baby would live, too.
It didn’t seem right to even complain to anybody. So I saved my pain for my family. The hurt. The anger. The fear. I contemplated the fact I was bringing in new life into this world when life all around me seemed to be destroyed. I fought through a dark mood. Tried to hang onto the joy I briefly had.
The best relief from the pain came the day my son was born. A happy, healthy baby. I knew I had so much to be thankful for. I embraced him, and made a pledge to return to embracing life.
My son is now thirteen. I do typical mom stuff with him and his younger brother. I recently took them to our local zoo. Not just to see the animals in general, but one animal in particular—our nation’s symbol. As we looked at the bald eagle I told them that on Patriot Day, and every day, we need to remember that life is special. That we should horde each day as if it were gold. That love and fond memories can never die. And that the pursuit of happiness will always prevail.
What do you remember about the day the Twin Towers went down?
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Photo of bald eagle by Stacy Hoff copyright 2015. All rights reserved.