Sunday, September 11, 2011

Loss and Hope

            Earlier in the week I sat down to write a blog post to honor the tenth anniversary of 9/11. I started out by writing my memories of that day. Not surprisingly, I was a puddle of tears before I even got to the part about seeing the plane hit the second tower on live television. There are so many tiny memories about that day burned into my brain—walking past a woman in Boston wearing the exact same suit that morning, the flawless blue sky, trying to make a cell phone call, driving to Walgreen’s that night just to get away from the television that I couldn’t bring myself to shut off. But my memories of that day are pretty unremarkable compared with so many others. If I can’t get my commonplace recollections out of my head, what is stuck in the heads of the people who experienced 9/11 in a much more direct way?
            Instead I want to talk about a realization I came to a little later on that week. At the time, my husband’s parents owned a small piece of land on a pond in Maine. We drove up there the following weekend to camp. I can’t remember if we had planned on going before the attacks or if we just needed some fresh air and quiet after that week.
            I had turned thirty a couple of weeks before. Thirty was going to be just fine for me. I was going to spend the first six months pregnant and give birth to my first child in January. That didn’t happen. I miscarried at almost eleven weeks in July. When my thirtieth birthday came in August it was a little tougher because of that.
            Dan and I lay on the ground looking up at the star-filled September sky, we talked a little about the miscarriage. For the first time, our loss seemed smaller. “Do you still want to have children?” he asked me.
            I can understand people not wanting to bring a child into the world when terrible things happen. You can choose to despair or you can choose hope. My answer that night was an immediate and certain yes. There was so much sadness and fear and anger in the world that week, but there were glimmers of light as well. There were heroes born that day—first responders and ordinary folks who stood up to hijackers. There were also millions of people who did whatever they could to try to make some small difference. They wrote checks for relief efforts, donated blood, and held hands with strangers to pray.
            The people who stand up and do the right thing in their own way out number the bad guys. They don’t get their pictures on the front page of the papers. They won’t make the six o’clock news. But they make a difference. If we want to make the world a better place, if we want to out number the bad guys, a great place to start is by raising children who do the right thing.
            The following summer, I watched the Boston Pops Fourth of July concert from my hospital room with my new son. The maternity ward was packed that weekend. Apparently Dan and I weren’t the only one who chose hope over despair. Owen is nine years old now. He’s strong and healthy and knows right from wrong. He knows you don’t take something that doesn’t belong to you. He knows it isn’t okay to hurt someone. He knows if you do hurt someone you tell them you’re sorry. He knows to stand up for himself and his little brother. When we talk about the events of September 11th 2001, I tell him about the heroes as well as the villains.