Posted by: marykfurness | September 7, 2011

Facing the Beast Head-On

This is it.  This is the big one. This is the 10th anniversary of 9/11. 

 The 5th anniversary, like a 5-year class reunion, isn’t the one you really acknowledge, unless you’re into counting those things.  It isn’t far enough away from the “real thing” to show is just evolving at that point.  But the 10-year…ah, yes, that makes for some major differences.

And it’s a beast all right.  Some who helped pull people out of the rubble have sickened and died; those whose parents and loved ones died have grown up and grown older and come to terms with a different life path.  We have all learned how to pack and fly differently–terms like “3-1-1” bag  are now part of our vocabulary, we wear shoes that can be removed easily at airport security, and we wonder if those full-body scan pictures really are saved somewhere.  

But there is one image that is, and forever will be, indelibly printed upon me from that day.  It was my son’s 4th birthday.  A bit of background….

September 11, 1997, at 1:30 in the morning, after a ghastly protracted labor that you don’t want the details on, I gave birth to an incredible young man.  He had a fuzz of reddish-blond hair and greenish-blue eyes, and my husband laughed and said, “boy, are we gonna have trouble; he’s red-haired and green-eyed!”  He grew into an energetic, intelligent, stubborn, temperamental young thing, willing to try anything, eat anything and go anywhere.

Four years later, I dropped him and two dozen cupcakes off at daycare, and went off to my job at the local NPR affiliate here in Columbia, MO.  The rest, as we all know, is horrific history–when I got to work, the first plane had hit the towers, I watched the second plane hit, then the plane hit the Pentagon.  I made frantic phone calls, as I had (and still have) friends and family in New York and Washington, then got down to the business of producing broadcast pieces, wondering all the while if I would get to my son’s 4th birthday party at his daycare.  I did, trying desperately to maintain a sense of normalcy.

This year is his 14th birthday.  He knows and understands completely what happened 10 years ago, probably far more than most young men his age.  He has flown many times and understands the importance of being careful going through security; he holds a passport, and has crossed many  international borders.  He has no fear of flying and enjoys travel.

But he hates it when people find out his birth date.  He hates the reaction of , “oh my God, that’s, that’s….”.  He gets angry.  He turns away.  He clenches his fists.  He has ranted in the classroom.  He has said to me, “it was my birthday before it was anything else!”  And I have said the same thing to others who have given me “the look”, the pitying, shocking, “oh my God” look….damn it, I GAVE  BIRTH on that day! 

He had birthday gatherings with friends up until a few years ago, but then, he decided he didn’t really care for that any more–said it just wasn’t his thing.  I suspect all the middle school/junior high “dude….9/11…whoa” may have gotten to him, but he says he just prefers a quiet family thing.  So we find something fun to do, just the 3 of us.

The fact that so many people died on that day 10 years ago is, and will always be, a dark, dark day in our nation’s history. As Pearl Harbor was to my parent’s generation, so 9/11 will be to mine.  I will always remember where I was and what I was doing; I have since found out where friends of mine were, and I bless them for the work they did, and continue to do. I think of it, and of them, every year.

But I also face that beast of 9/11 head-on each year and fly in the face of doom!!!  I rejoice in the child that came into the world those many years ago, watching him grow into a glorious young man–tall, confident, increasingly responsible, intelligent, musical, and willing to stand out from the crowd. 

May he also face the beast unafraid, shoulder to shoulder with friends and family, head held high!  And may we all stand with him!




  1. I had a student with the same birth date. He was once stopped for a traffic violation and the officer let him off with a warning saying, hey, with that birth date you have all the problems you need.

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