Today is a memorable day and as such a special day, a day set apart from other more ordinary days. I confess – September 11th has been a particularly special day for me for the past thirty years. Now before you start calling into question my mathematical skills, let me assure you I do realize it has been only nineteen years since the terrorist attack that toppled the trade towers in New York City.
I remember that day well. That day was and is the Pearl Harbor of our generation and we are forever changed and defined by the events of September 11, 2001, both individually and corporately as a nation. However, my life was forever changed on this same day thirty years ago when I brought a new life into this world. My youngest daughter was born on this day thirty years ago.
So I remember where I was on this day thirty years ago. I was in the hospital! That day holds for me, the sacred memory of a new life making her grand entrance into the world after nine months of anticipation, preparation and prayer. It was the day of a miracle, the priceless gift of a child, a reason to rejoice with great gladness. I remember the overwhelming sense of relief I felt, because my daughter had arrived safely and in good health. It was a day of joy and of great gratitude to God.
That must be why we celebrate birthdays. We want to remember the miracle and the gift that each person’s life is. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate that? (plus there’s the cake and ice cream)
So eleven years after my first memorable 9-11, nineteen years ago today, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. Nine/eleven was already a day to remember for me, but now a day of celebration of new life would also become a day of mourning the loss of life.
This was my daughter’s golden birthday, she was turning eleven on the eleventh. With my children at school, I was home baking a birthday cake and wrapping presents, which would be eaten and opened after dinner. I think it was a chocolate cake that I would later frost with pink icing. One of her gifts was roller skates. They were white with purple wheels and purple laces. I wonder if she remembers them?
My mom called to tell me to turn on the TV and the world was changed before my eyes. We live in the middle of the country (fly over country people on the coasts call it) but we suffered the heartbreak and the loss as one people, as one nation. Prayer was politically correct and police officers, firefighters, and first responders were our heroes. Their courage and self-sacrifice were an inspiration to everyone of us.
Today it is nineteen years later. My daughter lives in another state, in another time zone. Because of COVID, it might as well be another continent. We have not seen each other in far too long. I am not baking a cake today, her gift has been wrapped and mailed already. Nothing as exciting as roller skates though. Although it is something dear to my heart.
Today, we as a nation are remembering and honoring those we lost on nine/eleven. I am multi-tasking – mourning and celebrating simultaneously. I am remembering the courage and the sacrifice of so many individuals and the collective cohesiveness of all of us as Americans, coming together to face the evil that had caused us such harm.
Also today, I am remembering birthdays past, starting with the one in the hospital – the day you were born, my dear, precious daughter. Life and death, inextricably linked. How many nine/eleven birthdays must there be anyway? But it is yours that I celebrate, my daughter. Nine/eleven will always be a day to remember with joy and with gratitude for me. The day God gave me the gift of you! (your birthday and I get a present, go figure?)
Maybe I’ll eat some ice cream in your honor? I hope you will have cake, if for no other reason than so you will have a place to put the thirty candles for you to blow out. Your Papa always had peach pie for his birthday, but getting candles to stand up on pie was always a little tricky for Grami.
So, on this day to remember, I am remembering you, my daughter.
“For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:13-16)
“Your hands made me and formed me; give me understanding to learn Your commands.” (Psalm 119:73)
“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me (you); Your love, O Lord, endures forever – do not abandon the works of Your hands.” (Psalm 138:8)
sincerely, Grace Day