‘Wake up. It’s the paper’

I was six months pregnant with my first child and in a deep sleep when the phone rang that morning.

“Wake up,” my husband said. “It’s the paper. Planes have crashed into the World Trade Center.”

I spoke briefly with my editor and realized I wouldn’t be working my normal second-shift hours. They needed all reporters in as quickly as possible.

But for at least 10 minutes I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the TV. I sat transfixed, like most of the nation, watching the twin towers smolder.

“What will happen? What does this mean? What will the world be like for my child?” I thought as I dressed.

I spent the next few days interviewing person after person about the terrorist attacks.

I called and asked questions of my cousin, who is a flight attendant.

I asked questions of local veterans at the VFW on Main Street.

I asked questions of people on the street and at the Racine Zoo.

I asked questions of a Racine gentleman whose grandson had been in one of the towers and was killed.

I didn’t ask anybody the questions that I hadn’t been able to get out of my head since that phone call: What will life be like after this? What will life be like for the child I’m carrying?

I worried that the world my son would grow up in wouldn’t be the same world I had grown up in. I worried about more attacks, radical political changes and his safety.

For several nights, my husband and I fell asleep watching the news coverage and woke to it the next morning.

In the coming days, weeks, months, I wrote a lot about Sept. 11. I watched the footage on TV. I listened to the tribute songs that the radio played. I interviewed local police officers and firefighters who were going to New York to help.

In late December, my son was born.

By that time the questions that had been at the forefront of my mind on Sept. 11 were no longer at the forefront. I was too concerned with diapers and bathing, nursing and sleep schedules.

Life, for me and many Americans outside New York, had gone somewhat back to normal. But there remained at that time, and still remains, a piece of us that is forever altered.

Sept. 11 reminded us of our frailty and united us in prayer. It made us shake with fear for our children and realize all we have to be grateful for. It showed us that there is real evil in the world and that there are true heroes.

Looking back, I see that it also made me, perhaps the first time, consider the enormous responsibility that comes with being a parent.

I knew my first job was to keep my child safe, but in the long run, I wasn’t going to be able to protect him from the world. Instead, I saw I was going to have to teach him how to live in it.

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