Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Two Babies. Six Days. Two Towers.

It was a Tuesday. Our twins' very first one.


That morning at home began much like the delirious days preceding it: a 7:30am awkward and anxious tandem nursing, followed by double baby burping and dual diapering. As a first-time mom, I was adrift in the new-parent paranoia and hyper analysis of every hiccup and twitch -- and yet simultaneously entranced by each finger movement and chest-inflating breath, times two.

My treks up and down the stairs were strictly limited by doctor mandate to once or twice a day. After helping tend to the morning's first baby maintenance session, my husband Scott was downstairs. In a tone I'd never heard him use before (and haven't heard him use since), a blend of tender concern and clear urgency, he yelled, "Honey, are you watching the news?" I quickly (well, as quickly as one can when maneuvering newborn twins with minimal body control) turned the television to the "Today" show. Shots of a blazing World Trade Center North Tower filled the screen.

In true Elizabeth Kubler-Rossian mode, my embarrassing, sleep-deprived first thought was that surely, the poor pilot must have been killed -- entirely in denial that the hub of American business was undoubtedly populated with unsuspecting workers already seated at their desks for the morning. The commentators were reporting the damage was likely caused by a small plane...perhaps a privately owned Cessna. Never, never did I think for a solitary second the inferno we were all beholding was an intentional impact. An intentional impact. Before that day, unimaginable.

Minutes later, as we watched, the second plane, looking nothing like a Cessna, plowed headlong into the South Tower. From upstairs I screamed, "Honey! Someone needs to call the air traffic controllers in NYC! Somehow they're misdirecting planes into the buildings...another one just hit! Another one just hit!"

Unaffected by the tag team of horror and twin-delivery intensified hormones, and nowhere near as naive as I, my husband knew to come upstairs and explain what was by then terrifyingly obvious to his -- and most other Americans' -- eyes. An attack, here in America.

Chaos and conflicting stories prevailed that morning. Tales of upwards of 50 planes unaccounted for and potentially in enemy hands. White powder delivered to government offices. Estimates of potentially 10,000 dead. Military planes being scrambled. The President was in Florida. The White House and Capitol were being evacuated. A third plane, and the Pentagon -- less than 10 miles away from my childhood home -- was in flames. The hijacked Flight 93 went down in Pennsylvania...charred earth the only remnant.

Within hours, New Yorkers rapidly produced flyers with photos of smiling dads, moms, sons and daughters that were hung all over the city. They were held aloft for the television cameras so that someone, anyone, might recognize the person pictured and provide the reassuring news so prayerfully sought. News that with each passing minute was increasingly unlikely to be heard. Hope-fueled optimism reigned - and slowly, against its will, waned -- in the first 24, and 48, then 72 hours. The round-the-clock rescue efforts yielding way too few -- hardly any -- occupants for the recovery areas staffed and waiting nearby.

Those heartbreaking visuals and so many others from those days are seared forever in our minds. The disturbingly twinkly confetti-like papers afloat around the plane-pierced structures. The police and fire department vehicles with their sirens blaring and their heroes aboard, racing full-speed toward an area that survival instincts would reflexively demand one avoid. Stunned people in business suits running out of buildings. Onlookers screaming, hiding their eyes, pointing, praying, crying. Victims waving -- and then beyond comprehension, actually leaping -- from the facades of the burning buildings. A personal video from the POV of being pulled into a coffee shop to escape the billowing cloud of collapse, with the audio of "thank you, thank you, thank you." Al Qaeda training camp videos with hooded practitioners navigating overhead monkey bars. The iconic antenna atop WTC1 descending slowly into an expanding column of dust.

Then, new pictures. Emerging from the horrific aftermath, a surge of patriotism. On our near-daily drives to the pediatrician's office for twin baby weight checks, ever increasing numbers of flags hung outside homes, offices, stores and from car antennae. Business marquees no longer touted "Buy One, Get One Free" or "Help Wanted;" but instead, proclaimed "We Love You, New York," "We Will Never Forget," and "God Bless America."

The most rote of routines became less mundane. 3000+ families started September 11th as if it were any other day. Re-evaluation of even the most miniscule, theretofore taken for granted aspects of day to day life seemed in order. As I dried myself after a shower, newly acquainted with the word "Taliban," I couldn't help but imagine how grateful an Afghani woman might be for my warm, thick towel. Something that could be used for far more virtuous purpose than merely wicking away the moisture from a freshly-clean new mother. An Afghan mother might have nothing in which to swaddle her newborn baby. What if a woman in this horridly repressive culture had twins? How were those women there envisioning our lives? The concept and purpose of a burqua was (and is) difficult for me to understand. In those first days with our new babies, unashamedly, I found myself not only immodestly "uncovered," but frequently bare from the waist up. Did that mean that I, a new mother of beautiful, pure, innocent twins, would be viewed as immoral? Whorish? Incomprehensible beliefs so varied from our own...felt so very passionately, that dispassionately, murderous evil could be enacted under the misguided assignation of martyrdom.

Vividly, I remember my thankfulness, that amongst so many other blessings -- in positioning the twins to nurse, they were facing me...and not the future-altering images that filled the TV screen. As an adult, as an American, as a mother, it was my obligation to face those images...and to mourn with those who were mourning.

Yet amidst the devastation, the molten towers' girders seemed to find reincarnate solidity in heroes whose stories began to emerge -- and continue to emerge today.

Forever linked to our family's personal history, Scott and I pay rapt attention annually to the documentaries, the interviews, the tributes. Each September, our emotions careen from giddy celebration on the 5th, to grave solemnity on the 11th. Then, we move on. Always remembering. Forever united, a family...micro and macro.

Gratitude. Grief. Grace.
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30 comments:

the schirano triplets said...

what a beautiful reflection cheryl, it was incredible to read. thank you.

thegirlof510 said...

And here I'd forgotten it was September 11! Having a cold will really throw you out of the loop.

Terri said...

Very beautiful, Cheryl! Thank-you for sharing your thoughts!

Jen B. said...

I was a new mom, also, with a 2 mo. old baby girl & your words brought back so many of the feelings I had on that very morning also. Those were moments I will never forget & will always mourn those lost on that day.

Laura said...

If you did NOT spend a long time crafting this beautiful post, it certainly reads as though you did.
Thank you.

Nancy said...

You have such a way with words. It's no wonder you write books.
Thanks for sharing - you brought tears to my eyes.

Head Nut said...

Thanks for sharing your memories of that day!

Surcie said...

So well put, Cheryl. On that day, I lived in Northern Virginia, seven miles from the white house. I must admit, I rest a little easier now that I live 7 hours away.

Tracy said...

What a wonderful post. I remember that day like it was yesterday. It's amazing that seven years have gone by already.

Gibson Twins said...

Wonderfully written, Cheryl.

I was in an 11th grade Current Events class when this news broke. Such a devastating tragedy for those families.

MereCat said...

What a beautifully written post. We all remember where we were when and what we were thinking. I think if I were a very new mom I would have been so much more frightened and felt so much more helpless.

Thanks for the tribute.

noble pig said...

I was about five months pregnant with my second child on Sept 11th. I felt like I did not want to bring a child into the world under these circumstances, it was insane and who knew what was to come. It's still worrisome.

Harris Boys said...

wow, thanks cheryl...that was SO beautiful! my grandma passed away on sept 11, 2005...so that day is very personal to my family too.

Jenny said...

Great post. I can't imagine having that happen immediately after giving birth. The Virginia Tech shootings happened while I was pregnant and it was hard to deal with, even though I knew no one there. It just scared me to think that Suzi would have to grow up in such an evil world.

I was a senior in high school on September 11, 2001 and was hanging out in our ROTC room when we got the news. So strange to think it was seven years ago! It really did change everything.

BoufMom9 said...

Beautiful post Cheryl.
That day is so vivid in my mind as well.....

Barbara Manatee said...

I remember when I first heard the news, at school, from our gym teacher and everyone trying so hard to find out what was going on. I remember how chaotic the drive home and thinking if its this bad here, in Michigan, what is it like in NYC and DC and PA? Definitely a day I won't ever forget and one that will mark our lives and history forever...

Renata said...

What a lovely post, Cheryl. I had forgotten it was 9/11 but will never forget the actual day - even over here it was televised all day & we were riveted to the screen - watching & praying.

Threeundertwo said...

You are an incredible writer. This brought tears to my eyes.

Maternal Mirth said...

As usual, Cheryl, you have touched me. What an excellent post!

MommyJ said...

superb... thank you for this.

Giovanna Diaries said...

Well said.
A crazy, chaotic, tragic, and unforgettable day in history.
I was at the Twin Towers 2 days before 9/11 and I still can't believe they are gone. Everytime I see the NYC skyline....it just seems so wrong.
I send a prayer up to all who have lost on that day.

Linda said...

A beautiful remembrance of such an awful day that none of us will ever forget.

Monica @ Paper Bridges said...

thanks for letting me know about your post. those three G's are a good reminder.

Monica

Good N Crazy said...

I'm always encouraged/impressed/surprised by just how much this affected EVERYone. Small town USA, other countries, everyone.

Glad I'm in good company on the BlogHer list today!

Bia said...

It's good to remember this day and what we were doing when those horrific crashed occurred.

I remember watching the news and telling my husband on the phone that a plane had crashed in one of the twin towers. Then, as I was speaking the second crash occurred. I was speechless with horror. Later, my husband's work site (he works at a tritium facility) shut down on alert. It was all so frightening.

Blessings.

Zip n Tizzy said...

It's amazing the thoughts that go through our minds while in shock.
Beautifully told, and what poignant symbolism to have new twin babies in your arms.
Happy belated birthday to your seven year old "babies."
They grow so fast.

Donna said...

Cheryl - what a beautifully written post! I got goose bumps and tears - so many horrifying, earth shattering memories of that day. I remember desperately calling all of my loved ones to make sure they were present and accounted for.
I remember the day started off so perfect. And I remember the QUIET afterwords. No planes for days. And then the panic when you did see a plane.
I remember hearing story after story of God and all His angels at work - keeping people late or away from the towers. Hearing newscasters speak of God. Seeing politicians pray.
I had been a Quiet little Catholic up until that day, willing to "stand down" on my beliefs "least I offend someone" by voicing outloud the word "God." To think that I would whisper His name! Not anymore sista - I shout it loud and clear that I am God's daughter and that Jesus Christ is my Saviour! AMEN!
Thanks for such a touching post on a huge piece of all our lives!

Tracey said...

Are you sure you aren't working on another book...this begs for publication...seriously sister. Thank you for reminding us all of what is really important about life.

Merrie said...

Found you through POW. Such a similar post to mine in that we both had newborns. (Only one here, though!)
Wonderful rememberance -- thank you for sharing it.

Susan said...

Beautifully expressed and written! I wrote about that day as well. I was a teacher and due to our location my classroom was directly impacted by the tragedy. I will NEVER forget!