Those times of national sadness were common threads that connected Americans of past generations. Everyone could remember what they were doing. Everyone knew.
For our generation, that time of shock and the unity that transcended it was a different event. For us, it has defined us as a nation, and coming up on two decades now has still shaped our actions on a world stage. Every year, it seems farther away, but still on our collective mind.
Where were you on 9/11?
For me, it was a time of shock and uncertainty, but also one of joy, as I was in the hospital witnessing the birth of my eldest son. And it’s a column I repeat annually, because especially as he is maturing into adulthood, for me the story of his birth is forever connected to that day.
My kids were at school or at daycare, and my father, who was out of town was expected home that day from visiting a brother and sister in New Jersey. He was to going to be on a flight in the morning out of the Newark, N.J. airport, into Minneapolis. My mother, who had doted on her granddaughters, had passed away the previous November, and this was to be the first child born into the family that she would not see.
As my wife lay there having contractions, I walked out into the hallway where I noticed some floor nurses paying unusual attention to the television. They seemed awestruck, and as I walked over they noted that a plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center towers. It seemed a horrific accident until shortly after when another jet crashed into the other tower.
It was unheard of in nearly any of our lifetimes, and every medical professional on the hospital floor was abuzz with what was going on. On television, it quickly escalated when reports were coming in from all over of other possible planes being hijacked, and there wasn’t a soul who wasn’t glued to the television.
The military was on high alert, and planes were being grounded and there wasn’t a second of television that was not fully enveloped with the news. I had some troubled thoughts since my father was also to be flying that day, but my primary concern was for my wife.
I would bounce from attending to my wife, and checking updates of the events. I had noted to her a little of what was going on, but wisely she refused to allow the television to be turned on in her hospital suite, and said she didn’t want to know, because she had other business to attend to. And she was moving into more serious labor.
About that time, it was announced that yet another plane had been flown into a section of the Pentagon. Clearly, our nation was under attack, and there was worry written on everyone’s face. The OB doctors came into the birthing suite and attended to my wife as professionally as could be, despite the distraction of the historic events of the moment. And all staff was in place as my wife gave birth.
After relatively short session of pushing, the baby was born. As my wife had previously given birth to four girls, a cheer went up from the staff as the Doctor announced that my wife had given birth to a boy. She held her first son in her arms for a moment, and the doctors took care of the rest of the business involved in childbirth.
It was a boy! While I love my daughters unquestioningly, and they give me great pride, I’d always longed for a son.
My son was as healthy as could be, and his mother was also doing exceptionally well. As things settled down, and as my exhausted wife began to recover, we turned on the television and discovered that the World Trade Center Towers had fallen. And we also heard the news of a plane out of the Newark Airport that was hijacked had crashed in Pennsylvania.
About that time, I had a call on my cell phone from my father who was noting the absolute pandemonium at the Newark Airport, and his good fortune to get a rental car to travel back to his sisters’. He was safe, and pleased at the news of the birth of his first grandson.
As I got off the phone and the television news recounted and repeated the tragic events of the morning, a lullaby played over the speakers in the hospital. A lullaby. At St. Mary’s Hospital in Pierre, after the birth of a child it has been their tradition for a number of years to play a lullaby to announce the joyful event.
It was a bit surreal. Amidst all of the pain and carnage of the day, a lullaby announcing the birth of a child.
For a while, I sat with my wife, and then I’d go back and check on my son. I’d do this for a while, alternating between my two family members. After an hour or so, there was another lullaby played over the hospital. And I believe I heard another one a couple of hours after that.
The thing that struck me about that day, with my son being born between the time the Pentagon was hit, and the twin towers came down was this: Hope is eternal.
And it’s an appropriate thought on this day when we remember when so many people died. It’s appropriate on a day when soldiers are fighting and dying for the right of a country to be free. It’s appropriate to remember on a day when we are only starting to count our dead countrymen struck down from a tragic natural disaster. (At the time this was written, the hurricane had just hit New Orleans – pp)
No matter how bad things seem, they will be better. The lullabies playing a duet with the television newscasts taught me that. So has my son. Hope is eternal. Please remember that and offer your thoughts, prayers, and moral support today for the casualties of 9/11 and our soldiers .