February 21, 2018

How 9/11 Changed My View of Starting a Family

I was a high school teacher on September 11, 2001, not yet a mother.  My husband and I had been married just over a year and we’d recently decided it was time to start a family. Like many hopeful couples we had it planned down to exactly what season I should conceive (Ok maybe it was more me) and I wanted a summer baby.  It’s funny how a month or two in either direction can make a big difference when in that mind set.


And then that horrific Tuesday morning occurred.


I remember waking early to the usually light beat morning radio show that served as my alarm.  Their voices were serious this time.  They were saying something about a commercial plane crashing into one of the towers of the World Trade Center in New York.


I remember immediately thinking of my two girlfriends who were both United flight attendants at the time.  Could they be on those planes that accidentally crashed?


I lagged getting ready for school, not being able to pull myself away from the news.  I don’t even think I put on make-up or did my hair that day.


My students were all abuzz, many of them not knowing anything about it until they got to class. I tried to keep my 9th graders’ routine the same, but my mind was in New York.


The Social Studies teacher across the hall from us had the only cable television in our wing, so when my 12th graders came for their class periods we darted over to his room for updates.  We had Internet access, but in those days there still wasn’t much to see.  A website here and there, but not breaking news like there is today.


I was never more eager to get home from work. I sat transfixed, glued to the television set like the rest of America.  My heart alternately broke and swelled with pride.  When stunned friends and relatives held up pictures of their missing loved ones on live TV, when hundreds and hundreds of people clamored for 10 seconds to say their brother’s, sister’s, father’s, friend’s, co-worker’s, fiancé’s, name, the reality sunk in that this much angst and destruction was caused on purpose.


Tears streamed down my face and I seriously considered enlisting in the Army when I saw American flags flown everywhere, everywhere, and the feeling of American togetherness I had never known up until that point encompassed us all.  There were no politics; we were one, big American family.


I remember the interviews and an emphasis put on the hundreds of pregnant widows in the days that followed.  The question kept arising, in many shapes and forms, “Who would want to bring a child into a world with so much hate?”


I remember being struck by that question.


I thought about it, but the answer was an assured and thundering, “I do!”  I was sure in our decision to start a family, knowing that the best antidote to all that hate is love, the love I would give my future children and the goodness they’d bring to the world one day.


Just a few weeks later I learned I was in fact pregnant. My son was born in June 2002, just 9 months after the September 11 attacks. It didn’t matter so much that I had a summer baby anymore, but I did love that he was born 9 months after others wanted to obliterate us.  That didn’t happen.


On this 10-year anniversary, I pause and think about the countless other children who have been born since 9/11.  Just as I never understood when I heard my parents talk about a defining moment from their generation, when President Kennedy was shot, these children will only learn what it was like to live through that time from our stories and their history books.  These children’s presence must remind us, though, that shaping them to be good, honorable people is the best way we can honor those lost on September 11, 2001.How 9/11 Changed My View




  1. Heather Stokhaug says:

    Interesting. I had the opposite reaction. I went back on birth control the next week because I could not see bringing a child into the world as it was. The fact that I got pregnant 2 months later (on the pill!) just showed me that there is a greater power than me, greater than anyone here on earth. The birth of my son two weeks before the first anniversary of 9/11 was the most amazing that has ever happened in my life. I think you are right, Julie, about love being the antidote to hate. I just couldn’t see it for myself.

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