Twelve years ago on the eve of this day, thousands of people packed their bags for a trip they would take. Bags that would never be unpacked. People they would never meet. A business trip left unattended and unresolved. Unwittingly loved ones spent that last night lying next to a lover or a friend. Shared their last hug or kiss. Left their side with either sorrow or great anticipation for what the future would bring.
Only the following day to learn those were the last moments they would ever share. The unimaginable horror consumes me every year on this day…. But it also teaches me to be thankful. To be grateful for the short time I am given here, on this place we call earth. To hug my loved ones a little tighter, to complain a little less and to love a little more.
As the story goes…. it begins in the summer of 1997. I began to visit NYC several times for shopping and theater. For a small amount of time I was convinced that was where I would spend the remainder of my days. Only it didn’t happen that way. I had children and my roots remained firmly in NH. Tis’ life.
But I remember…
plummeting through a cavernous dimly lit tunnel, a NYC PATH train twisted through the underground terrain as my body was thrust against a steel beam to which my fist was tightly clenched. Within minutes of its hurried journey, there was squeal of air released from its accordion like doors to which a mass exodus of commuters and tourists flocked. The underground train released its herd of passengers into what was then an underground mall inside the World Trade Center.
Upon entering the tiled mecca brimming with activity, my senses were accosted with an overwhelming consortium of sights and sounds. There were the most delightful smells, something akin to walking through a cloud of doughy goodness laced with intermittent hints of marinara. The melodious sounds of street performers stringing their instruments and the pangs of steel drums awakened even the most dulled of senses. The sheer volume of people walking through these halls resonated a dull drum like tone; a sound accompanied by a muddled mess of indistinct chatter.
Eventually making my way to the above ground world, I navigated the very edge of a sidewalk attempting to view the majesty of the twin towers that loomed overhead. I craned my head back so far, it seemed as though an imaginary hinge was crafted at the base of my neck. These stupendous structures seemed to infinitely span into a silvery cloud cover that loomed in the Manhattan sky.
My week was filled with kamikaze cab rides, shopping, sight seeing and cocktails. I left behind the metropolis playground with my card stock covered disposable camera filled with a collection of memories; along with an assortment of keychains and mugs. I returned to New Hampshire where life would resume as usual until one day….
What we believed would be our ordinary nine to five day turned out to be anything but routine. On that day not one of us expected what would forever jilt our country’s collective sense of security…. the most devastating series of attacks in history on our American soil.
Words cannot adequately depict a clear image of what we all felt that day. Images that have forever been seared into the hearts and minds of Americans and citizens across the globe. An unbearable measure of sorrow consumed the lives of the victim’s loved ones. On that day there would forever be a deep scar of loss inflicted on our lives that no measure of antiseptic salve could ever fully nurture. For the innocent victims and heroes of 9/11 our country wept an innumerable amount of tears, yet the outpouring display of human kinship and kindness touched us in a way will never forget.
A year after this tragedy, I revisited Manhattan to witness the devastating void where blind hatred had indiscriminately left its mark; to stand where I had four years ago and I tried to digest the now forever gone Goliath like structures. Standing at ground zero abreast to a chain link fence I glanced down the sheen of a glossy billboard which carefully enumerated the names of fallen victims. Two beams from the structures were welded into the shape of a cross which now stood at the center of ground zero. A mural depicting the statue of liberty was painted on the facade of an adjacent building which read, “The human spirit is not measured by the size of the act, but by the size of the heart.”
Amateur drawings that foretold of a toddler’s Crayola creations were posted on this same fence, finger-painted hearts and the like were scribbled on greetings to their fallen parents, aunts, uncles or cousins. Another recurrent theme were T-shirts displayed on the fence’s metal webbing, shirts with a person’s name and picture; with signatures and sentiments penned around the person’s face. In the background, a street performer serenaded the crowd with his flute as he played “America the Beautiful” with the expectation of a donation in his brown rimmed hat that sat at his feet. As I stood there reading the billboard names, the horrific events of the day replayed in my mind.
the tears. the great sorrow, it still hurts.
Years later, on September 10, 2010, I went into labor with my son, Jameson Bird. My husband and I made our way to the hospital that night around 6pm in a state of unadulterated bliss knowing our baby boy would soon be here. Not surprisingly, there weren’t many thoughts which distracted my mind from the task at hand. But then it occurred to me…if I did not give birth prior to midnight, I would have a September 11th baby. I will be honest, I was concerned for the negative connotations this day would imprint on my son’s life.
I had secretly hoped that I would deliver Jameson that night, but I did not deliver Jameson until the early morning hours of September 11th. But I learned… On this sad day, I could now rejoice in new life, I could rejoice in the baby giggles, the first words, the wobbly first steps and the tears of joy.
God willing, with every passing year I may see him grow into a wonderful man like his father. While this day will always hold a great measure of sorrow, what I have learned is that no one -no matter how powerful and mighty they may believe themselves to be- they may never take away our hope. Sometimes when you look just right, life will show us light in the strangest of places. But most importantly, that life is so very precious…. go home and tell someone you love them tonight. trust.
Also, Happy Birthday to my little man, Jameson Bird. Mommy and Daddy love you with all our hearts. 9.11.10