As a working mother to a busy and demanding 7 month old, it’s often a toss up whether weekends become a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of the work week, or a stressful scramble to get an endless list of things done around the house, oftentimes while keeping up with social engagements. Despite the fact that we had no plans, this weekend had turned into the latter. Yesterday was a whirlwind of cranky baby, food prep and projects around the house. I went to bed tired and expecting to continue the string of hellish nights we’ve been having due to teething- the screaming fest that had gone down at 8:30 pm made it seem all that much more likely. But, to my surprise, he only woke up once to nurse and went right back down until 6:20 (in our house, that’s a good night). All in all, Sunday was looking up.
A nice breeze complemented the break in humidity and lower temperatures that we desperately needed after a sweltering and miserable early September. Today, for all intents and purposes, was an absolutely perfect and ordinary Sunday. We took the baby to his first swimming class. Mike mowed the lawn. I made a chicken in the crock pot, homemade broth for soups and baby food, and a few purees for the baby. I folded laundry. I went for a run- much needed, considering I am signed up for a half marathon in just over a month and I haven’t ran since Monday. Mike rigged up a TV on the back porch and we enjoyed the first Giants game of the season as well as the beautiful weather. Lovely. Uneventful. Typical.
But this date. This date makes it so this typical, beautiful September Sunday is anything but. September 11, 2016… 15 years since the terror attack that changed everything. I was a freshman in high school when it happened and my emotional relationship with 9/11 continues to evolve today. Maybe it was the fact that I was essentially still a child and didn’t have the mental bandwidth to fully process the gravity and horror of what happened- and, that’s probably for the best. It wasn’t until 9/11/06, as I was watching the memorial program on TV, and I saw the name of a friend’s father come across the screen as it was read aloud by the presenter. I had met this person in college and there were context clues that made me realize that the name on the screen belonged to her father- previously, I had had no idea that her father had been one of the many innocents who lost their lives on that horrible, fateful day. I’m not sure why exactly this particular fact finally made things click, but I’m pretty sure I cried harder that day, for hours, than I ever had before. It took 5 years and this hard, home-hitting truth and it seemed I finally was able to feel and process and acknowledge everything that I had previously been unable to.
Several years after that, I think it was in the spring of 2012, I had the privilege of visiting the in-progress memorial with family. We toured the grounds and it was overwhelming to say the least. As we paid our respects at the memorial, I poured over all of the names listed. All of these people went to work that day without any clue that they were never returning home to their families. There were two people who stuck out to me- two women whose names had “and her unborn child” added to them. These women were at a time in their lives that was supposed to be filled with hopes, and dreams, and possibilities. A time that my sister was in the midst of, as she had welcomed her first child that fall. A time that I hoped was on the horizon for me. At least two pregnant women left in the morning that day and never returned to their husbands, left to grieve their wives and the children they would never get to meet. I wondered how many children were left without mothers or fathers… how many spouses were waiting, or parents, or even friends. These were all things that I had obviously thought about on some level before, but to see those words inscribed- “and her unborn child”- truly moved me.
It’s now been 15 full years since those horrible, Godless terrorists attacked us. I was a child, now I’m a wife and a mother. I go to work every day to support those who protect us from those who seek to threaten our way of life. I hope and pray for a lifetime free of tragedy for my son, but I would be naive to think it’s even a remote possibility. We have been at war for just over half of my life. We have unrest within our own nation beyond anything I’ve seen before in my lifetime. It’s hard to feel hopeful sometimes (let’s not get started on this upcoming election). All of this, juxtaposed to the fact that life has gone on. I find it difficult to process. My sister is due any day now with her third child, and she had mentioned at one point that she hoped he wouldn’t be born on 9/11, but then pointed out that “9/11 is basically going to be just another day for our kids,” and she is right. I’m not sure how to feel about that. A part of me feels like it means that evil did not win. I hope that’s all it means.
As the anniversary approached, I wasn’t sure how to acknowledge it. Typically I watch the memorials and say some prayers and make a promise to myself to not forget. I also often post a quote- “Now, we have inscribed a new memory alongside those others. It’s a memory of tragedy and shock, of loss and mourning. But not only of loss and mourning. It’s also a memory of bravery and self-sacrifice, and the love that lays down its life for a friend–even a friend whose name it never knew,” spoken by President George W. Bush on 12/11/01. Still love these words- specifically, the parts about the self-sacrifice and the love that was so abundant in the US post the attack. If only there were a way to inspire that sort of unity, selflessness and service in the absence of absolute catastrophe. Perhaps, we need to start with ourselves. Filling our own lives with presence and unconditional love and living in the moment and doing for others.
So today, on this typical, uneventful Sunday, I commemorated 9/11 by being present. I drank in my son’s smiles and cuddles. I laughed with my husband. I took a few moments to let myself cry. I didn’t stress about the work week, or that the kitchen is always a mess, or that I haven’t slept longer than 5 hours since 2015. I promised myself that I will not forget what’s important. I remembered that life is beautiful. That the amount that I have to be thankful for is truly astounding. That 15 years ago people spent their typical, uneventful Sunday’s doing typical, uneventful Sunday things for the very last time. I will never forget.