September 11, 2001, I had just put my 8-month-old daughter down for her morning nap at 9 a.m., and I entered my office to do some work. I turned on NPR, as I always did, and heard that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I figured it must have been a small, private plane that had gotten in trouble, but decided to go downstairs and turn on the TV. There I saw a 2nd plane fly into the other WTC building; there I watched people jumping to their deaths; there I watched, on my hands and knees in front of the TV, crying and praying, the buildings fall down in a mass of ash and fire.
It took me days before I even realized that, as those buildings came down, people were dying inside. Days before I could allow myself to think it. My parents and my husband were supposed to board flights that day, flights that were cancelled. My daughter was scheduled to be baptized two weeks later, and my in-laws, who were to fly over from England, cancelled their flights because of September 11.
In the following days, the world was so quiet. No planes flew over my house; generally dozens did. There were no cars racing down my urban street; the neighborhood was unusually subdued. That's what I wanted after Ben, as well, for the world to stop and acknowledge he was gone.
At the time, I felt that this was most likely the defining moment of my life as an adult, the moment where everything changed for us in America, that we - none of us - would be the same ever again. This was the permanent "Before and After" for my generation, like Pearl Harbor was for an earlier generation.
And although I was stunned by the events of that day, I wasn't surprised. When I was in college, I travelled to England and Ireland, and that was when I "got" the fear of terrorism. This was during the time of the Irish Republican Army, and while travelling through the airport in Dublin, I saw members of the Irish military in their uniforms, with automatic weapons strapped to their bodies. I got it then, a little bit of what it is like to live with the threat of terrorism every day, which much of the world has been doing for generations. Later, I lived in England and commuted to London for work, and was always aware of the terrorist threat, had train service cancelled because of IRA threats and suspicious packages placed in underground stations. I knew, somehow, that something like this day was coming for us.
I remember boarding an airplane for the first time after September 11th, sobbing in my husband's arms as I thought of all those people on those planes, what they must have felt, how frightened they must have been, how innocent they were. I thought of the families left behind and prayed to God to help them find some peace. I remember standing in the Newark airport and seeing New York City on the horizon, with two buildings so obviously gone.
I was wrong, however, about this defining moment for me. September 11th was not the defining moment of my life. Ben's death was my defining moment, my own marker of a time Before, and a life After.
Today, I remember all of them - all those who lost their lives that day, and all the ones they left behind. I remember Ben, and I remember all the babies who, every day, don't come home. I remember that 7 years ago, in hospitals and homes across America and the world, babies died, grandparents died, moms and dads and siblings and aunts and uncles lost their lives, and their deaths have gotten lost in the horror of the terrorist attacks.
I remember you.
If blood will flow when flesh and steel are one
Drying in the colour of the evening sun
Tomorrow's rain will wash the stains away
But something in our minds will always stay
Perhaps this final act was meant
To clinch a lifetime's argument
That nothing comes from violence
And nothing ever could
For all those born beneath an angry star
Lest we forget how fragile we are
On and on the rain will fall
Like tears from a star Like tears from a star
On and on the rain will say
How fragile we are How fragile we are