On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was at a restaurant.
On the morning of September 11, 2007, I was in a hospital room.
Both days are milestones for me, one tragic and one joyful, and as we near the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks and the fourth anniversary of my first day as a mother, I am struck by how much life does, indeed, go on.
In 2001, I was waiting tables to make a little extra money. Full-time, I was a copy editor at a newspaper; it was my first job out of college. One of my customers told me that they had heard about a plane hitting the World Trade Center in New York, and wasn't that a horrible accident? Twenty minutes later, another customer told me that a second plane had hit the other tower, and with a terrifying swooping feeling in my stomach that I associate with close calls while driving or other near-misses, I understood that this was no accident.
My editor called me at the restaurant and told me to come in right away. In restaurant uniform, I spent the rest of the day, until the wee hours, watching CNN and editing page after page of attack special editions. It was exhausting, mournful, and, if you will forgive me, energizing. As journalists, we are trained to seek out news, act quickly, and cover stories with responsibility and accuracy. An event of such magnitude pushed us all to the limits of our training as we scrambled to keep up and report judiciously on the waterfall of news. And as I cried watching the replay of that plane hitting the tower, I felt like I was somehow doing my part to make sense of this mess.
Six years later, as America was marking the time the planes had hit the towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, I sat in a hospital bed holding my newborn daughter. I had, only the day before, remarked that I hoped I did not have a 9-11 baby. But the force of nature pushed me past midnight on September 10 to a birth date of the commemoration day of great national tragedy.
Now that date is a bittersweet anniversary, or perhaps a sweetbitter anniversary. Before, when someone mentioned September 11, my first thought, of course, was of the attacks. But now, my first thought is of the beautiful, sweet, spunky little girl whose first act of defiance was to be born on a day that her mother did not want.
Her birth reminded me that life continues. This sentiment is perhaps of little comfort to those who lost loved ones on 9-11, or in the subsequent wars, but as humans, as Americans, that is what we do. We mourn, we remember, we pick up, we keep moving. As she gets older, I hope that my daughter will not see her birthday as an unfortunate intersection with those tragic events but rather as a reminder that our days are precious.
As we eat our cake and ice cream tomorrow, and as I reflect on the long days of vending-machine food in the 2001 newsroom, we will honor the memory of the victims and celebrate the life of a girl who started her life with an exclamation point: "I am here! I am born on a day of sadness, and will make the world a better place!"