Two Stories. One Day.
I'd just settled into my desk and looked over my to-do list for the day. Mostly I needed to fundraise for an upcoming festival. We had less than a month and I needed more sponsors. My major problem at the moment was that I hated asking people for money. I'd been giving myself a pep-talk all morning about who I needed to see and how they would really want to help our community and sponsor the festival.
Amy hurried down the hallway calling as she went, "A plane just hit the World Trade Center!"
Alice, whose office was next to mine, and I followed Amy into the small volunteer firefighters’ lounge at the end of the hallway. She turned on a small television and we all stared at the news reporters who at this point could only guess about what had happened. No one knew they were wrong in their guessing yet. In the four months I'd worked from my office in City Hall, we'd never turned on the television in the fire department.
I don't remember the exact words, but I'm sure it went something like "How does a plane fly into the World Trade Center? Can't they see that? That's so horrible."
After several minutes of watching the news reporters guess about what was happening, we all returned to our office, leaving the television on so we could check back for updates. I tried to go to CNN's website, but between dial up internet speeds and crazy amounts of internet traffic, I couldn't even get the page to pull up.
A few minutes later, Amy hurried even more urgently than before down the hallway again. This time others from the front office followed her. "A second place has hit."
A knot formed in the pit of my stomach. One plane could be a coincidence. An accident. Two? No, something really bad had just happened. At some point we learned about a plane hitting the Pentagon. Another crashing in a field. Hundreds more grounded at airports where they never intended to land.
We were under attack. Our nation, strong and brave and vibrant, was being slammed by airplane missiles. Where would it end? What else was going to happen?
I walked silently back to my office and called my husband. "Hey, you need to know there's been two planes to hit the World Trade Center, another one at the Pentagon."
"What?" he asked. He was driving to his class 90 miles away, probably studying as he drove even though I'd told him a hundred times he would have a wreck doing that. Today I didn't care. I doubted his professors would even have class.
That night I sat at home, alone, in front of the television and cried. I cried for the innocent loss of life. I cried for the couples who lived the entire day in fear not knowing where their loved one might have been only to find them safe at the subway at the end of the day. I cried for our country who would forever bare the scars of this day.
We all have our story of September 11, 2001. We tell them every year, sharing where we were, with whom we shared the day and how we felt. I have another story of September 11.
Eight years to the day later, September 11, 2009, my husband and I arrived at the hospital early. The nurse gave me a gown, thick socks and a couple of pre-moistened antiseptic cleaning cloths. I had strict instructions to clean every part of my body. With a basketball for a stomach, reaching parts I hadn't seen in months was a task in itself.
When I finished cleaning and settled into the bed in my fashionable gown, the nurse came back to start my IV and do some additional poking and prodding. I pushed down on the side of my stomach with my hand, trying to move a small head from my rib cage.
Our parents and pastor arrived and finally the nurse pushed my bed down the hallway. We followed the signs to surgery.
"The family can wait there. When we're finished, dad can bring the baby out to meet everyone," the nurse instructed.
Another knot of nervousness filled my stomach.
My husband held my hand while we waited in a small partitioned room.
"Dad, if you'll come with me I'll get you suited up. We'll take you in after they get her ready. You'll sit on a stool at her head and don't touch anything," another nurse instructed.
They wheeled me into the c-section room. Sherry, a friend from church, was working that day. She helped me to sit up and lean over so they could inject the numbing meds into my back. I know those meds have specific names, but I'm not a nurse and I was about to be cut open so another human could be extracted from my body, so cut me a little slack here.
"Now I'm going to lay you down real fast when he gets finished, so you just relax and let me do it," she explained.
A few minutes later she lay me down. They pulled up a curtain and my doctor arrived. He made a little small talk. I knew what he was doing, but I felt nothing...except when the anesthesiologist pulled tape off my arm. "OW!" I yelled.
"My mama always said if you took it off fast it didn't hurt," he replied smiling.
"Your mama lied," I replied, not smiling. My arm still smarted.
My husband arrived and sat near my head and held my hand.
"Here she is," announced the doctor.
The anesthesiologist prodded my husband up from the stool supporting him under his arms and then pushing him back onto the stool.
"What does she look like?"
"Is she big?"
I closed my eyes and listened to her scream. The most beautiful scream in the world comes from a newborn baby, healthy and mad. A tear escaped and rolled down my face into my ear.
They brought her over. My husband held her and let me kiss her tiny, red cheek. Then they were gone to meet the rest of the family. And I was left for clean up. That's the job of a mama anyway, cleaning up. But I didn't care. My baby girl was here. Safe. Healthy.
The world changed that first 9/11. I'll remember that day with the same somber remembrance as everyone else who lived through it. The world changed for us a second time on another 9/11 and I'll forever celebrate the hope, love and joy God brought into our lives that day. Two days. Two different stories.