While I have many memories of where I was, how I felt and the unfolding of events on 9/11/01, I am always struck by the irony of how I learned what was happening. I can’t remember who the client was that I was working for at the time, but I know I was working in my home office, alone in the house and nine-plus months pregnant. The baby was due in three days and I was trying to make sure I wrapped up or got ahead on as much work as possible before he came. I was spending my morning creating a media list and calling radio stations in several states to ask if they had a dedicated news department, accepted press releases and the like. I was struck by the fact that several of them gave me strange, almost sarcastic answers to my inquiries about their depth of daily news coverage:
“We are covering it today.”
“We’re in the middle of it right now.”
“Today we do.”
I think, but cannot recall clearly, that I had the passing thought that something big must be going on in their region because the stations were all in a particular state or area. While in the midst of this, my father called me. Retired and living in the Adirondacks, he often called at night but never during the day when I was working. He greeted me with, “Are you watching TV?” I was slightly irritated and offended that he would think I’d be watching television on a workday. I figured he hadn’t gotten his hands around this home-office, self-employment thing. Then he told me to turn on the news and I saw the first tower on fire. As I processed, Dad told me a plane had hit it and I thought it was a terrible accident. With the rest of the world, I watched in horror as the day unfolded and we as a country realized things would never be the same. We would never again hear about a plane crash or explosion and just assume a terrible accident had occurred.
As most people did, I reached out to my family and my friends. I called my husband who was teaching down the street to find out he couldn’t leave school because they were locked down as a precaution against an unknown and undefined threat. No one knew what was going to happen next or where. I prayed our baby would not be born on that day when his father would not be able to come with me to the hospital and when his birthday would forever be the day so many souls left the world.
I did not do anymore work that day and I didn’t process the news reports like a public relations professional looking for data that impacted clients’ overall communication programs. I watched emotionally as an American and a heartbroken human. The baby did not arrive then, nor three days later. Maybe he knew the world had just turned upside down outside and it was best to stay where he was, because doctors had to go get him when he was more than a week late. The front page of the paper the day he was finally born had a picture of President Bush and a headline that spoke of “War.” The flag outside the hospital window was at half-staff.
Fourteen years later, my father is gone and the baby is bigger than I am, healthy and happy. In school today he will watch a documentary about 9/11/01 for the first time. When he gets home, we’ll process it together as Americans and humans. It’s what each generation must do as we honor our commitment to “Never Forget.”