What New Babies Bring to September 11th
My baby's due date fell just a day shy of September 11th. Which made me wonder: what if he was born on a day of national tragedy?
I received an Evite to my neighbor’s 40th birthday party a few weeks ago. It was scheduled for the second week of September, so I replied with a ‘Maybe,’ writing, “I’ll be there if I’m not in labor!” (My official due date was September 12, so chances were high I could have been). When I ran into my neighbor the next morning, we stopped to chat about the party. I asked when her actual birthday was, and, when she said “September 11th,” it took me a moment to recall, out of context, why that date struck a cord within me, tripped a wire in my mind. It was an imperceptible moment, I’m sure, in which I also realized, “Oh, right…”, but what I said was, “Oh, yay!” (because birthdays are awesome) and “Hey, maybe you and our baby will share the big day!”
It somehow hadn’t occurred to me before then that Otto might be born on September 11th. I brought it up with my husband, who actually lived in New York City when the World Trade Center was attacked in 2001. Although I, like every other American who remembers that day, can recall exactly how I heard, where I was, and what I felt when those buildings collapsed in billowing smoke, Aaron—my hubs—was impacted more directly than I by the tragic events. He left the city for a few years afterward, before eventually returning, and we met there in 2008. I know that this day is difficult for him each year, however. And it’s also difficult for us, as a nation, as human beings, even though it happened twelve years ago.
“So?” Aaron asked when I brought up the potentiality that our baby would arrive on September 11th.
“So… What might that be like?” I ventured.
“It would be wonderful!”
I was surprised by the simplicity of Aaron’s response. But he was right. A baby’s birth is by all counts a joyful event, and I know our experience wouldn’t have been diminished if Otto had arrived on September 11 (As it happened, he showed up a little early.) Maybe it would have been healing, somehow, for Aaron in particular. A new layer, a reminder of life’s complexity and unyielding potential, a happy association for every September 11th to come.
Without downplaying the magnitude of 2001′s terrorist attacks for those who lost loved ones, those who lived in New York and DC at the time, and those of us who looked on in horror, I think perhaps the babies born on the anniversaries of national tragedies give us a special freshness and hope, relieving the pain and confusion that surface, collectively, each year. They remind us of important truths that can be difficult to see from the bounds of our individual lives.
These babies remind us that when life comes into this world, it arrives in the midst of our messes and wars, but it arrives vulnerable and sweet, and it brings out our innate abilities to love, nurture and care. Our babies make world events personal. We realize people suffering, both here and overseas, love their children just as we do. We realize every person caught in conflict is someone’s baby, too. Babies bring out our deepest wishes, as mothers, as fathers, as people: that all babies may somehow, some day, be born into a peaceful world. And the beauty of it is, although we take a chance on this world by bringing our babies into it (it’s terrifying, really…), they give us the chance to build the world we believe is possible. They also give us that belief in the first place, especially on days like September 11th.
So Happy Birthday to the 9/11 babies! Thank you for reminding us how far we’ve come, and how far we have to go.
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