The day before September 12th

I was nine months pregnant with my first child in 2001. I honestly don’t remember my due date but I was DUE!! I was so tired of being pregnant and I was scared, anxious and excited to meet our first baby, a little girl. Being so huge, it wasn’t often that I was sleeping well. But I remember on the night of Sept. 10th, I was sleeping very well. We were expected to check in to the hospital at 6am Sept. 12th to get induced. But then I got the call, early Tuesday September 11th.

It was about 6am when my aunt called me and woke me up. The first thing she says is, “TURN ON THE TV!!” I was so groggy and confused I responded with, “what?!?!” She says it again, “Turn on the tv!!” I asked, “What channel?” She says, “Any channel.” Then she says, “I will call you back” and hangs up on me.

I thought that was the weirdest thing ever. But I turned on the television and began watching what was only to become one of the greatest acts of terrorism on U.S. soil. I could not believe what I was watching. I woke up my husband and told him to look. Look at the tv… look at what is happening… look at what we are watching… As he began to fully understand what was happening, a plane flew directly into the second tower.

Shock…. silence…. tears….

My phone rings again and it is my aunt again. I asked her, “What is going on?!?!” She responds, “America is under attack!!” I remember I was mostly in shock and just did not know what to think.

We watched the news for a few minutes and got off the phone. My husband and I just laid in bed, not knowing what we should do. I honestly don’t remember what we said or what we did…. but we were in shock. I remember I popped in a VHS cassette tape into the VCR (yes, I had that back then!!)  And I began recording the television. I knew that this was going to be history. And I wanted to have this VHS tape as part of history in the making.

I don’t know what time it was that I received another call from my aunt, mabe just a couple of minutes, and my aunt says, “Your brother is missing.”

“What?” my mind went blank and my heart skipped a beat…. “What?!”

My sister in law called my mom asking if she had heard from my brother. My mom told her no. She then says that he had a meeting that day in Manhattan in one of the towers at 9am. He is supposed to be there. She and my brother both worked in advertising in New York at that time.

My aunt then told me to hurry up and get over to my grandparents house. The whole family is getting together there to wait for any kind of news. So my husband and I got up and got dressed and brought our hospital bag with us. I was expecting to go into labor any minute so I took my hospital bag everywhere with me.

As we got to my grandparents house, we greeted everyone with a hug, as we always do. My uncle, whose birthday is September 11th, was sitting at the table. I gave him a hug and told him happy birthday. He responded, “Yeah, some birthday.”

And then the first building collapsed.

It was only an hour ago that we saw a plane hit the building, and now it was falling. I just could not believe what was happening.

My mom was pacing back and forth talking to my sister in law. My dad was in the kitchen trying desperately to call my brothers cell phone, only to keep getting a busy signal. My grandmother was sitting at the dining room table praying, some family members were in the living room crying, while the rest of us watched the television in shock. Our eyes glued to the tv. In total disbelief that this was actually happening.

I remember when the first tower fell, my mother dropped the phone. It was at that moment that our whole worlds turned upside down… believing that my brother was in that building. At that moment, my mother believed he was gone. We all did….

The entire day was a blur. I don’t remember every detail about it. I remember a lot of tears, lots and lots of praying… And I remember the shock we were in.  Almost like zombies. Watching the television and the news reports. Seeing if there were survivors. Watching the mass exodus of people walking over a bridge to get out of Manhattan. Our eyes, about 3 inches from the screen, trying to see if we could recognize my brother walking. Seeing and hoping that maybe he is in that crowd on that bridge. But nothing. We couldn’t see. We couldn’t find him. By that time all cellphones were cut off. There were no signals anywhere. From what we knew, his train would have dropped him off right underneath one of the towers. So, from all that we knew from his schedule, he should have been there.

Hours and hours passed and we just waited. We waited to hear from him. We waited to hear if one of his colleagues would have called his wife. We waited to see hear something… anything. As the day turned to evening, the realization that our family in California was impacted by such an incredible tragedy across the country… it just was NOT fathomable.

We mostly sat in silence…. in shock… because after a day, we should have heard something by now. It was about 630pm (930pm East Coast time) when we received the call from my sister in law…. my brother was alive!!  He called her and told her that he was safe at a friends house in Brooklyn. It turns out that he was part of the crowd that was walking over the bridge. The crowd that we were so desperately searching.

Early September 11th, my brother got on a subway to head into Manhattan. The subway stops directly under the twin towers. He said that his meeting was at 930am in Tower Two. By the Grace of God, he was running late and missed the train that left before the one he was on.

While en route, the train suddenly stopped. They were stuck. The power was off and no one could see or hear anything. No one knew what was going on. After a while passengers knew that it was bad…. really really bad. But he explained that no one really knew. He said they were left in the dark for about 45 minutes until they were finally allowed to get off the train. When he reached ground level, they were greeted with a cloud of darkness and dust. No one knew what was going on. No knew what had happened. He saw the direction that people were walking in and that was the way he went. It was only when the dust began to clear that he kept hearing what was going on. America was under attack and Tower Two has fallen.

He randomly saw a friend and colleague in the crowd as many people were directed to evacuate Manhattan. His friend told him that he lives over the bridge in Brooklyn and that he and some other people he was with can go to his house and clean up and wait for the phones to get turned back on.

He said it took about 4 hours to get to his house. And then they had to wait to be able to use the phone. They tried the internet, they tried land lines, they tried cell phones…. nothing was working. It wasn’t until about 6pm that cell phones were back online. He called his wife and told her he was alive.

When she called us, we were so excited and relieved. The entire day was so sad and hard to get through. I thought I had lost my brother to this. My parents, my grandparents, my sister, my cousins, my aunts and uncles…. this was traumatic. My brother is the first grandchild and the oldest out of all of us. We thought he was gone. Then suddenly the news of him actually being alive…. incredible. A miracle.

Soon after hearing that was alive, I was feeling very very sick. The stress of the day just made me so tense I was in pain. I began getting sick and feeling real yuck. My husband and I left to go home. As the night progressed I began feeling very uncomfortable. Some cramps here and there. I thought because of all the stress that I was overdoing it. I was 9 months pregnant. I was DUE already!!!

The next morning, my husband and I left to the hospital to get induced. When I arrived, I found out that I was already in labor. I did not need to be induced afterall. I found out I was already 4cm dialated and this baby was going to come fast. And she did. I remember when it was time to push, every  nurse in our room had their backs turned to us and glued to the tv. I remember being told to push but I had no idea who said it because they were watching the aftermath of yesterdays events. I remember at one point I yelled, “Hellooooo. I’m having a baby now!!” And, although at the time I did not find it funny, now I laugh when I tell that part of the story.

With very little pain, our baby girl was born at 11am, Wednesday September 12th. She will be 15 years old tomorrow.

My brother and his wife both moved to Maine after September 11. Both stopped working for their company’s after September 11. And neither ever completely got over that day. It was years later that they divorced and went on with their lives in different directions. They are still friends and still great parents to their children. But I believe when there is a traumatic event that changes your perspective on life, your job, your home base…. it changes you. And sometimes you just can’t go back to being “normal”.

My family visits him on the East Coast every year. His kids come stay with us for 2 weeks every summer. Since this day we have become a stronger and tighter family. A few of us now work in law enforcement and others in the military. We take our American Pride very seriously.

For those that have lost their lives for this country …. we never forget.

For those that sacrifice their lives now… we thank you.

For those that fight for our country and our communities… we are here with you.

God Bless America

xo

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