9/11 is a day of tension and contradictions, at least for me. It is a day that gave me some of my greatest joys and redemptive gifts, yet, it lives in infamy, known as tragic. The OB floor of the hospital was like a ghost town that day when my daughter, Maya, was born. No other mothers were giving birth, no planned c-sections, and no serendipitous arrivals except for me. It had only been five years since the tragic attacks on DC and NY. No woman wanted her child’s birthday to fall on a date named for sorrow and loss. But I had no choice- I’d become pre-eclamptic, and Doc said the baby had to come forth to save us both.
As I reflect on my life, I realize now that not only had Maya’s life been marked, from its outset, as a redemptive overcoming, but so had the coming of each family member that God had planned for me.
On 9/11, the same year of the attack, I worked in DC, hosting hundreds of foster and adoptive families from around the country and government officials from Europe and Asia. We had hosted a press conference on the Capitol Lawn the day prior (9/10). We would be hosting our congressional Angels in Adoption gala on 9/11 at the International Trade Center (DC’s sister org of the World Trade Center in NYC). But the attack upended it all. Many of our guests were even in line for a tour at the Pentagon when it was hit by the plane.
Once all our guests had found a safe passage out of DC, Scott and I were led to NYC. We desired to comfort hurting people, even if just to talk or cry with them. Ad hoc memorials had sprung up around the city, like Union Square, where we ended up. Here, in this place, we experienced the redemptive miracle when strangers meet and connect in hearts when hope is needed most. They find themselves reminded that God’s love and comfort are made real through human interactions. I experienced this phenomenon in 1992 in Russia, just after the Communist Wall came down. When people were searching for hope, they most readily found it through connecting with those showing the love of God to them in tangible ways.
But, while in NYC, I became greatly fatigued and soon realized that I was pregnant with our first child (who would be Maya’s older brother), our son, Cole. It is strange to hold the tensions of sorrow and joy, light and darkness, heartache and elation together at one time. But this was how I felt back then and how I would feel again five years later with Maya’s birth on 9/11/06. As a matter of fact, this reality would be the mark of our family’s formation from that point on.
January 6th, another date now identified by tragic events, is my husband’s birthday and the day I would birth and experience the loss of another daughter, Isabella. She would come forth full-term, stillborn. But, at the time of her death and stillbirth, my nephew would also be born in the hospital room next door to mine, just hours before.
Life is indeed filled with tension and contrary happenings. January 6th may be known to our contemporaries as the day of conflict at the US Capitol. Still, for countless Christians throughout the ages, it has been long celebrated as Epiphany, marking when Jesus Christ was first made known to the gentiles. January 6th and September 11th are two of these “days of tension” in my life, and these days remind me that each person’s path is unique and that God is in both the weeping and the laughter.
Joy and sorrow, light and dark, birth and death. All of it being smashed together and happening concurrently. In truth, each date on the calendar of the 365-day year is marked by both, and your view of each day depends on your personal story, that of your nation, people, race, and even how large you perceive your circle of brethren to be in this world. Indeed, you, too, have experienced these contrarian ways at some point in your life – when a day is hard for you but not for others or when it is joyous for you and tragic for another. How often do we lose one family member and find that we gain a new one within days or even hours?
I have grown grateful that my family’s birthdays remind me of the wisdom found in knowing that another person’s story, on any given day, is likely different from mine. I want to be open to perceiving the various narratives and the negative feelings being felt and teach my children how to always give room for both. To rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn, just as the Bible teaches. And to treat every day as a gift from God, who has made them all and caused the sun to rise upon each one. We are inside the storylines of God’s redemptive hand, and He invites us to consider our participation in this redeeming work, willing to hope and believe again for tomorrow.
Though I celebrate this day as the day my daughter, Maya was born, and when, five years earlier, I discovered I was pregnant for the first time with our son, Cole, it also marks tragedy for our nation where many lost their lives. Many more sons were sent into harm’s way so my children could grow up safely and in freedom.
I post this video below to celebrate Maya’s life and journey in becoming and thank those who helped make her joy possible. May the life she lives bring hope to those who suffer, and may she be a friend to those who need one. And I hope and pray that other people will pick her up when I am not around in the times that she experiences the inevitable valleys that all must walk upon our common earth.
“Therefore be watching carefully how you walk— not as unwise, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. For this reason, do not be foolish ones, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-17