I tested myself the other day. Can I think about 9-11 without my eyes tearing up?
The answer is no.
My personal story is not especially tragic. I didn’t lose a loved one. I didn’t spend many tension-filled hours anguishing over the fate of friends, family or colleagues. I wasn’t trapped in the rubble, waiting for rescue workers and did not give birth waiting to get into the ER. I even had the assurance that my loved ones outside of Washington, DC knew I was safe thanks to a hastily cobbled together phone tree.
I don’t need a never forget bumper sticker to remind me of 9-11. How could I ever forget the sense of fear, confusion, and panic, normal emotions on any given day for a 9-month pregnant woman about to have her first baby, suddenly on steroids that crisp blue-skied day when our world irrevocably changed.
Memories of 9-11 and my impending foray into motherhood are forever linked. I remember the lilac maternity shirt I was wearing as we evacuated the Senate. I remember the pressure of the contractions as I waddled to Brigid’s apartment and how I (successfully) willed them to stop. And as I watched with horror the footage from the day, I remember the impromptu speech Congressman Steny Hoyer made to an apartment full of young House and Senate staffers from different offices, different parties. I remember how I held my pregnant belly and took his words to heart.
I remember the moment when I realized the passengers of United Flight 93 saved my life and the life of my unborn baby.
It sounds trite to say that I feared what kind of world awaited my baby. Every mother worries about that. Just because my kid was born four days after September 11 doesn’t set me apart. Mothers about to give birth today have equally real and present dangers to fear, just as mothers have from the beginning of time.
But with the benefit of 12 years behind me, I can see that this is the kind of world my child was born into: a world where friends help each other, where a few kind words can sustain you for the day, where opportunity abounds and freedom reigns. We might not always agree with our government and the decisions it makes, but we can express our frustrations at the ballot box. We are more tuned in to unattended packages on the metro, suspicious looking envelopes and what we pack in our carry-on bags. The world is markedly different than it was on September 10, 2001. But it’s the only world my son knows and as he grows, hopefully he will continue to make it a better place, as he has done for me every day since September 11, 2001, when really what he filled me with was not fear but hope.