Photo Credit: Falling Man by Richard Drew, AP
Friday night I walked into the family room and found my two children plopped in front of the TV. They were not just watching. They were glued--eyes large as ping pong balls. They had chosen a documentary on the history channel about 911. I entered at during the tragic scene in which victims were jumping out of the towers because jumping from a 90 story building seemed to be a better choice than incineration.
"Turn it off", I screamed. It was a gut reaction. My kids were barely two and three when those horrible events happened and we did our best as parents to shield their little eyes from the 24/7 news coverage. We struggled to keep them from seeing our own pain and suffering as we came to the brutal realization that our country had turned a corner and life in America would never be the same.
Fortunately, my more sensible side then took over, and I sat down with them and said, “You are old enough to know what happened to our country and how your own father was given a second chance that day.”
Then, I told them the story…
My husband was booked on American flight 11 scheduled to depart from Boston to LA on September 11, 2001. He was managing some of our investments in Boston, and part of his regular weekly routine included flying back and forth from LA to Boston, usually on American Flight 11.
Something happened--an unexpected change in plans. He finished his work a little bit early, and since my son's second birthday was coming up on the 13th, he decided to catch a flight the night before. September 10th, he arrived safely in Los Angeles and we picked him up from the airport. September 11th, we both watched American Flight 11 crash into the World Trade Center from the comfort of our own bedroom.
We were lucky! For some reason, my husband was given a second chance. I have often wondered why and have spent a lot of time thanking God. I try to remember that when times are tough because I don't believe second chances are coincidental. I truly believe there is some reason why our family was given a chance to stay together a little longer in this lifetime.
My son was born on September 13th. The number 13 conjures up a variety of superstitions. 13 has received such a bad-wrap that many public buildings still choose to eliminate the 13th floor altogether. People dread Friday the 13th and consider anything with a 13 to be unlucky. When he was born, just a few minutes past midnight, I couldn't help ask, "Why God? Why couldn't he have been born at 11:59 pm on the 12th to avoid this whole 'unlucky' thing?"
The day he was born, I received a congratulatory phone call from my lead account manager. “And by the way,” she said before hanging up, “I know the timing is bad, but I got a phone call from our biggest client this morning that they have selected another agency to handle their business next year.” I didn’t know what to think, so I just focused on the miracle in my arms.
That same day, while breastfeeding in an exhausted stupor, I watched Hurricane Mitch, which was bound for Jacksonville Florida, shift course to the North. It made a direct hit to Boston, destroying a building we had just purchased a week before. Would this day become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Again, I focused on the beauty of my son, bound and determined not to let superstition get the best of me. “It is just a number, not a destiny”, I thought, refusing to stamp "unlucky" on his budding identity.
On 911, I realized that my son's "unlucky birthdate" was probably the reason that my husband is still with us. The stars aligned to create a miraculous set of circumstances. My husband was really excited about our boy's birthday. He pushed himself extremely hard that week to get done early so he could get home to be with us. Luckily, there were seats available on September 10th so he could rebook. He actually made it to the airport on time and got on the plane which seems inconsequential, unless you know about his tendency to miss planes.
While we were watching the documentary, I cried for the families who were not so lucky. I prayed for them. I thanked God, AGAIN for giving us a second chance! Why us? I prayed for guidance to know what we are supposed to do with that second chance. I held my children's hands while they gained insight and understanding to the terrible horrors that sometimes happen in life. I answered their questions and tried to quell their fears.
I don’t tell this story to illicit a “pity party”. I am sharing because as I watched the documentary on Friday night, I REMEMBERED! (How easy it is to forget, especially nine years later). I remembered what happened that day. I acknowledged what it represents to Americans, then and now. And I thanked my lucky stars that sometimes in this life we ARE given a second chance.
Photo Credit: The Will to Live