It amazes me how one date can simultaneously hold memories of anguish and joy.
Thirteen years ago I was asleep in my dorm room, groggily hitting the snooze button and vaguely aware that the normal pop music that should have been blaring through my clock radio was replaced by somber voices and lots of talking. As I settled back in for another eight minutes of sleep before being awoken by the alarm clock yet again, my phone rang.
“Ryley, it’s dad. A plane just flew into the World Trade Center in New York. We’re okay. Get up and turn on the news.” (At that point, I didn’t question why my parents in Arizona were telling me that they were okay, but have since thought about how smart my dad was to have the foresight to not totally freak me out as he woke me up.)
With my hair frizzed out and retainer still in, I sleepily walked down the hall to a friend’s dorm room where the news was on. For the first time, I saw the images of the planes flying through the towers and was frozen in my spot. One of the deans walked through the hall, making sure that everyone was okay and anyone from the east coast had been able to reach their family. I spent the remainder of the day glued to the tv, watching the same footage over and over again, horrified and riveted all at the same time.
Fast forward nine years later, and I spent the same day, September 11, again immobile, this time connected to medical equipment. Though labor had really started two days earlier, September 11 was a day of intensity, excitement and overwhelming emotion. After hours of pushing, I looked at the clock – it was 11pm – and said to my husband “I can do this for one more hour. Let’s get to the 12th!” (That must have been the meds talking!) My strong-willed daughter had other ideas, though, and she came out ready to party at 11:28pm. It was one of the single greatest moments of my life and changed me forever.
Whenever someone asks me when her birthday is and I tell them September 11, they often react with pity. “Oh…” they say. But I don’t see it that way. I see it as an opportunity to reclaim a day of ugliness and terrible pain and, at least in our little corner of the world, make it into a day of beauty and celebration. It doesn’t mean we don’t remember the day thirteen years ago that changed the landscape of our country and the world in countless ways. We do. And we celebrate new life and the amazing hope, joy and spirit our little one brought into the world four years ago.
Happy birthday baby.