I always have trouble concentrating on this day each year. Mostly in the mornings around the time of the attacks. My mind wanders back to that morning in the apartment on the other side of the river. The morning I spent alternately looking out the window at the tips of the buildings and all the smoke and watching TV. On the phone with dozens of people who were calling to make sure that on that day there had not been any unusual deviation that would have unexpectedly drawn my husband or I across the river, that we were safe on our side. I spoke to the Dr. (then med student) briefly right after the first plane hit. He called to make sure I was watching the news and to make sure I was at home. He was doing rounds at Jersey City Medical center which is located directly across the river from Ground Zero. He watched the events unfold from a patient’s window on an upper floor and then went downstairs and triaged people, washed people, held people, listened to their stories. He never watched news coverage after that if he could help it. He didn’t have to he had heard all he ever needed to hear first-hand.
A week or so ago I left a comment on a blog that posed the question “When did you first feel like a mom?” and I told a story about voluntarily catching throw-up in my hands. I was wrong.
I first felt like a mom on Sept 11, 2001. At 34 weeks pregnant, I became suddenly and incredibly aware that I was someone’s mom and that I was responsible for her safety and that that safety was threatened. Even though I had not met her yet, it was my job and my job alone to keep her safe. During that couple of hours when we knew it was more than 2 planes in Manhattan but we didn’t know how bad it was going to get I sat in silent fear that it was going to continue to get worse and that my side of the river would not remain safe. I tried to plan what I would do if something happened and I had to try and “get away.” I remember being distinctly thankful that I was still pregnant and that me and the baby could “run” together and that I wouldn’t have to carry a baby. That was the day I knew I was a mom and that my baby would never be safer or more protected that it was at that moment – and when I realized that after it was born I couldn’t protect her near as well. That was the day, the moment I knew I was a Mom.
The most vivid memories I have of that pregnancy are from that day forward. Each trip to the OB, each birth class at the hospital meant leaving the safety of my hilltop apartment and going down into Hoboken. Hoboken where so many of the young fresh-out-of-college professionals had lived and played while they commuted to work in the city. The signs haunted me. The pictures of the missing. All their fresh young eager excited faces wallpapering every street pole, every shop window, the entire wall of the hospital entrance. They all were at that stage where the world is their oyster and is ripe for the taking. And then it wasn’t. I spent my ninth month of pregnancy avoiding the signs. Then right as she was born the Anthrax threat unfolded and my mail was no longer safe. People didn’t open our birth announcements because they were mailed from New Jersey. How was I supposed to protect her from such unseen dangers?
Every other day of the year, I pretty much can keep those fears at bay, compartmentalized where they belong. You can’t protect them every minute every day. But on this day if I had my way I would not swallow it all down and send her off to school any way while I sit here and shake and try to concentrate and worry. Today is the one day a year that I have trouble fighting down the need to pull her under the covers with me and hold her and pretend that she’s still inside me warm and protected instead of out there somewhere making her way without me. Be safe Puddin’.