I am a New Yorker, born and raised. I have lived in the South longer than I’ve lived in New York, but when people ask me where I’m from, I still say that “I’m from New York”. Who doesn’t love the hustle and bustle of the city, the busyness, the fact that there is always something to do at any time of the day or night? If it’s you, then phooey! I like the sights and sounds, most of the time. There is no pizza or Chinese food quite like what you can find in the NYC area. Even with the crimes I’ve witnessed and heard about, the city still holds a bit of magic for me.
It’s through this lens that I experienced what we now know as “9/11”. It was a Tuesday. I was in my office, just starting to dig into the issues of the day, when one of the sales people walked in and asked if I had a radio. I did and turned it on, as my office phone started to ring. The station was playing a commercial so I asked the sales guy what he was listening for on the radio. He said he heard something on the way into the office about the Twin Towers in New York. I tried to change stations but all I got was static. He left and went to my managers office, probably still searching for verification of the news.
When I checked my phone message, my mother had called with this snippet, “Just wanted you to know that a plane has crashed into one of the Twin Towers”. My mouth dropped open. Sales guy was right. I flipped back to the news channel, the only station I could pick up on the radio. The reports were coming in – hundreds watched live as a plane aimed for and crashed into one of the two buildings at the World Trade Center (aka the Twin Towers). As the guy was reporting about it, I could hear the commotion as they exclaimed about another plane crashing into the other building. I stepped outside my office and the entire place was abuzz. My teams were talking about it, the department was talking about it – every single person in the office was sharing news as they got it. We all wondered what it meant. I know I called a couple of family members in New York, only to get a busy signal on the phone. I didn’t have anyone’s cell phone numbers; I don’t even remember if I had a cell phone at the time for myself, I recall walking into my director’s office about 30 minutes later, since he had a small TV in his space. As I walked in, we watched together as both towers fell to the ground.
This was such a surreal scene. A wave of emotion washed over me. I was just there about 3 years prior, standing on top of one of those towers like I was on top of the world. Now I was watching a part of my world crumble before my eyes. Some of those same workers that we’d encountered in 1998 had to still be there. The people in the lobby and at the ticket desk, the guy and lady at the pizza place; I couldn’t believe that thousands of people lost their lives in such a brutal manner. More reports came in about the airplane attack in DC at the Pentagon, and the plane that was purportedly headed for DC but diverted somewhere in Shanksville, PA. My husband has family in DC, were they ok. What about my NY family, why couldn’t I get through to them? What madness was this? Was the US under attack? What was going on?
When I got home, I spent the rest of the night listening to and watching any and every news report I could – breaking my own rule about watching TV (same news all the time; somebody lied, somebody died, somebody cried). I couldn’t help it, there was a magnetic force that kept me glued to the set. At work the next day, the mood was of course somber. I’d finally heard from my family members and they were all accounted for. A cousin recounted how she had just gotten off the train and saw black smoke headed her way with people running, so she ran too. It was the debris from the collapsing towers. My godmother, who is Muslim, talked about her daughter-in-law dodging a bullet (figuratively) because she worked at the World Trade Center and was supposed to be at work. She was scheduled to go in late that Tuesday morning, after her doctor’s appointment to check on her unborn baby. We discovered that my husband’s aunt, who did work at the Pentagon, had actually retired just 4 months prior and wasn’t onsite, but several of her friends were. So the work atmosphere was not only somber but filled with stories that we saw or heard about. Our department gathered for a moment of silence and I was asked to pray. All I can remember saying is that for the people who lost their lives, if they even said “I believe” in their last moments then they were with God, for “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord”. I don’t remember what else I said. I know I cried. Again.
That night, Wednesday, was midweek worship at our church. Some call it bible study, our church at the time called it Wonderful Wednesday Worship. We attended, for surely we would hear some words that would help us to make sense of this mess. To hear reports on the news that terrorist groups were claiming victory over this attack, that they might try again, that they were proud of their accomplishments – it was too much to bear. Surely God, or his representative in the form of our pastor, had some semblance of answer which could return us to normalcy?
Sadly that was not exactly the case. From what I recall, he made it seem as if the attacks were because of the country’s own two-face dealings with leaders and dignitaries around the world. Whether there is truth in that statement or not, saying it 24 hours after our world was shaken to its core was probably not the best tactic. We left feeling more lost than when we entered the sanctuary.
The Big Decision
As the days wore on, we talked about life and death and the meaning of both and our place in this world. During the first couple of years of marriage, I had been insistent that I wanted to finally finish my degree before we started a family. That didn’t happen, which is another post for another day. We weren’t ready either, not during those first 1-3 years. As we got to years 3 and 4, I remember asking hubby if he thought we were ready and he said no each time. This was fine with me, because I was still holding onto the dream of completing that degree. When the attacks of Sept 11, 2001 happened, things shifted…for both of us.
We realized that there is never a right time or right place to have a family, only right intentions. We always knew we would have a family. We both had decent jobs with opportunities for advancement. Patrick had a degree. We had purchased our home just a couple of years before that dreadful day. We had updated vehicles. What, exactly, were we waiting for? Towards the end of September, early October, we talked about whether it was time. We each took about a month to give it some serious thought.
A child would change things for us. No more spontaneous outings. No more extra dollars to frivolously spend. No more super late night doing nothing, or a whole lot of something (wink wink). Now we’re thinking about the pitter patter of little feet and what that really means. A little person, who will someday become a big person. The scariness, concern, and worry of “doing it right” – raising a baby to young adulthood. Schools, and friends, hobbies and activities – we’re going to mess him/her up. No wait, this place is already messed up in so many ways. And we see that and we know that we’re trying to do our part. We’re continuously changing and evolving. We’re not as selfish as we once were, maybe we can raise someone who really cares about somebody other that himself and his immediate needs. We can shape someone who is certain about her purpose and walks in it fully. Let’s really thing about this thing. The privilege, honor, and opportunity to raise someone who would contribute to society and not take away from it.
The decision to become parents would have probably happened within the next year or so of our marriage. The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 jolted us into action. We have never looked back.