It was my first day of maternity leave, 15 years ago. I could have slept in but morning sickness roused me just before 6, just about the same time as my husband kissed me goodbye before leaving on his 1 hour commute to work.
The first thing I did was eat something to ward off the nausea. A day old blueberry muffin. Much the same as the one I ate this morning. Then I put on the coffee. I turned on Matt and Katie and Ann while I was waiting. Instead of the typical Today Show ribbing, what filled my screen was the Manhattan skyline. Smoke billowing out of one of the World Trade Centre towers. Moments later, a plane flew into the second tower.
I called my mother at work. It was just after 6am here on the west coast, so barely after 9 in Montreal. I called her direct line, bypassing the switchboard. She picked it up almost right away. “Mum, what’s going on?” I blurted out.
“Oh my…” she said. And she told me what she knew. They were watching the news reports on a TV in a meeting room. “Jason.” She said suddenly. “Call Meredith.” My oldest girlfriend. She and her husband lived in Toronto, but he worked in New York, his office in the World Trade Centre. Like me, she was pregnant; due with her second baby in February.
I got off the phone with my mother, and called. She answered on the first ring. “He’s okay.” She answered, without saying Hello or asking who it was. He’d worked in Toronto on Monday, and then put off flying to NYC until Tuesday morning. He’d called her not long ago. “Turn on the TV,” he’d said. “A plane just hit the trade centre” he’d said. He’d called her from his flight. He’d seen the first plane hit from the window of the plane. Her phone had been ringing off the hook since then. We chatted a few more minutes. Then said good-bye.
I was in shock the rest of the day, watching the footage. Here on the West Coast, New York is far away. Another world, really. But not for me. I had been to New York. I had friends who worked there. Family who lived close to the City. I didn’t lose anyone close that day, but I felt raw. Ripped open. Vulnerable. Everything made me cry. It could have been because I was 35 weeks pregnant. But weeks and months later, the thought still filled my eyes with tears. Footage made me cry. In February, 2002, People Magazine did a special on babies born after 9/11, born after their fathers’ deaths on September 11, 2001. I cried so hard. In February 2002, when Meredith and Jason welcomed their baby girl, I cried. He was there. Their family was still intact. Complete.
Diane Sawyer and People Magazine continued to run updates on the Babies of 9/11. Globally, those children are my son’s peers. Their mothers, mine.
In 2008, after my brother in law passed away, I discovered a book: The Alchemy of Loss, by Abigail Carter. She lost her husband on 9/11. She wasn’t pregnant, but her children were very young. Too young to understand why Daddy went to work one day and didn’t come home. Her story of rebuilding her life, and a new life for her children. Her exploration of Grief. Tremendous. I had spend years feeling unworthy of this grief I’d felt since September 2001. When a tragedy isn’t yours directly, grieving can feel misplaced, even wrong. It felt like I hadn’t earned it, so I should chin up and move on. Except it was there. Carter’s book connected me to my grief. It allowed me to feel worthy of those tears and aching. to feel vulnerable and acceptable. Reading her book let me grieve quietly and freely, and allowed me to carry forward in peace.
My children’s generation is marked by 9/11. Known as the post 9/11 generation, the Homeland generation, Generation Z. ABC and People Magazine have brought us another update. Those babes are 14, coming up to 15 years old now. It tears at my heart to follow it but at the same time, they are a strong and resilient group. They and their peers across North America, could grow into a callous and jaded group, but instead they and their younger siblings are generous and loving.
They are more globally connected and change-minded than any group since the 1960s. Their world is much smaller, and more vulnerable than any in history. Guided this way, in part perhaps by parents and teachers, whose parenting is framed by vulnerability and resilience. Who are aware every day, how precious life is. Who grieved as a continent in Fall of 2001, for a world changed forever.
Parenting for today~tomorrow~and the next generation.