Life was good and we were enjoying our recent relocation to the East Coast. As born and bred Midwesterner's, life in the Northeast was full of new experiences. We had to adjust to curving parkways and hidden sunsets. Scott and I had just moved from Central Illinois where the cornfields stretch out like ribbon unwinding from a spool and the end of the days are marked with sunsets that flood the sky.
Living halfway between New York City and Boston allowed us the opportunity to explore two cities we had only heard about on TV and in the movies. When family and friends came to visit, one of the "must see" trips was to the Twin Towers in NYC. That trip was a must for a special visitor who came to stay in August of 2001.
Scott had become a Big Brother through Big Brother's Big Sisters just two years before we were transferred to Connecticut. It didn't take us long to build a strong bond with our "little brother," Philip. We couldn't wait for him to arrive for a visit a few months after we had moved. He flew out solo and we anxiously picked him up from the airport and began several days of activities focused on him. I was 8 months pregnant at the time and although I kept up with the guys on most of their adventures, I bailed on the day trip planned to NYC. It was hot and sticky and the thought of trekking around the city with my growing belly was not enticing.
After a thorough review of the train schedule, they made their plans to leave early on a Saturday morning for a day trip. I elected to stay home and finish up the nursery. I spent hours on a chair in our soon-to-be-arriving baby girls bedroom stenciling pink bows on the walls. They spent the day touring and Philip excitedly came home that evening with an "official" NY Yankees jersey and lots of stories and pictures. The pictures were of all the usual tourist haunts, the Empire State Building, Times Square and one picture I will never forget of our sweet Philip standing in front of the World Trade Center Towers. That trip was six weeks prior to the tragedy of 9/11.
After sending Philip home with a full suitcase and his head dancing with memories, we settled in for the countdown to Abby's arrival. We were planning on a due date of 9/10/2001. She was born on 8/27 and what a surprise it was, a procrastinator by nature, I was not ready a 7lb. baby who rocked our world. My mom, however, is a planner. Thank goodness! She had purchased her plane ticket for her "inaugural grandma" visit months in advance. The timing was to be perfect, arriving on 9/18, exactly a week after the anticipated delivery and a week after Scott's return to work.
I was rocking my newborn in the nursery, admiring the stenciling I had gotten done just under the wire, and listening to the radio when the first news of the terrorist attacks hit the airwaves. The broadcast didn't make sense and I turned up the volume to better understand what was being reported. Indeed it was true, the towers had been hit...the same ones our sweet Philip had just posed in front of weeks before. The news media erupted and for seven days all of the local Connecticut news affiliates played around the clock footage of the carnage. So many deaths and so many missing people. There were so many families that we knew who had friends and family members who were affected.
Just as regular television programming was grounded, so was all air travel. Suddenly the excitement of living so close to the big cities and the draw of following our aspiring careers, seemed empty. I was home alone with an infant that cried and cried and I spent hours holding her as the news unfolded and I cried and cried. I wanted my mom and she couldn't get there. It was such a long week and we waited everyday to hear whether or not air travel would be reopened in time for her 9/18 flight from Iowa to Connecticut.
Reflecting on that time now, I can still remember the desperation I felt as I watched so many personal stories unfold about children who couldn't find their dad's and wives who were listening to recordings of their husband's voices on answering machines. The world seemed out of control and my new life as a mom felt out of control too. I wanted my mom to be there and what I had previously taken for granted, the ability to hop on a plane, was suddenly gone.
As we recognize "Patriots Day" tomorrow I wonder what your memories of that day are. Have you shared them with your kids? We have always talked about 9/11 in our home. I talk liberally with my three kids about the casualties and the heroes. It's important for them to know how quickly life can change. They need to know why I always save the last voicemail from my husband before he boards a plane. I don't want to scare them, but I want them to understand that our moments together on earth are short. God promises those who believe in Him an eternity in paradise, and by teaching them the fragility of life they begin to see the value of God's promise.
A week after September 11, 2001, the dust began to settle and the death tolls continued to mount. Television reports scaled back to regular time slots and we began to hear music again on the radio. The best gift of all was that on September 18, 2001 air travel resumed and a plane bound for Hartford, CT from DesMoines, IA landed safely and my mom met her first granddaughter and we hugged for longer than I ever remember hugging my mom before.