Bittersweet

Sunday is the eleventh of September, the tenth anniversary of the terrible attack on the twin towers in New York. It’s a day none of us will ever forget. After all these years, it’s stored in all our family lore, either because of tragedy, close and personal, or because of the sheer horror of what happened, but each of us has a story to tell about that day. Let me tell you mine.

My youngest daughter was due to give birth to her first child, but said child didn’t seem too eager to put in an appearance. So, when she called me early on the morning of September tenth, I knew we were finally on our way. Call the doctor, I said, and started to make my own preparations. I lived on California’s central coast; she was in the LA area, four or more hours away.

The baby was in no hurry. We spent a difficult night, my daughter, the baby’s father and me, while the hospital staff popped in and out, monitoring her progress and the baby’s heart beat. On toward morning, there was much discussion why she wasn’t making progress and worrying about a dry birth. They weren’t as worried as I was. So, even though the television was on, I missed it. “An airplane just flew into that building,” the baby’s father said, staring transfixed at the TV. “Not possible,” I answered, but I turned to look We both stood, uncomprehending, as the second plane went in. Nurses came in to check on my daughter and paused to stare at the TV. We spoke to each other in hushed tones, as if to speak too loudly would make what we were watching real. Suddenly, for me, it became very real. Paralysis melted and my brain had started to function. One of my sons worked in New York, across the plaza from the Twin Towers! They were talking about other buildings on fire! Which ones? I had visited his family not that long ago. One evening, after I had spent the day in the city, he and I met after work and walked over to one of the towers for a glass of wine before returning to Long Island. We went to the top, took our wine out onto the viewing area and watched the lights of New York come on. It had been magical. It wasn’t magical now. I had to know where he was. I grabbed my cell phone and ran downstairs. It was impossible to get through to New York. I needed to get back upstairs. My daughter’s pains were coming faster and she was in extreme distress. I was worried about her and about the baby. An emergency C-section loomed large in my mind, but so did my son. Where was he? I phoned another daughter who lived in the LA area.  She had heard the news but was on her way to her job as a teacher. Don’t leave until you find your brother, I instructed, no one is going to send their kids to school today anyway. Upstairs, things weren’t going so well. The doctor was on her way; nurses were glued to the fetal monitor with scarcely a glance at the TV. It stopped me, however, when I heard the announcer say all planes were grounded. Anything in the air was to land immediately. No planes on the ground could take off. My oldest daughter and my son-in-law were supposed to have left for Texas that  morning. Where were they? A quick check of my watch said they should be halfway from San Louis Obispo to LA. If they made it there, they could go no further. Someone would have to get them. It wasn’t going to be me. The baby had finally decided to make its appearance. Come help her, the doctor directed. I held one knee, the father the other while the doctor instructed my daughter to “push.” The TV screamed the fate of the third plane in the background.

 

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