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Into the Smoke

Judging from my archives, it appears I've spent the last two anniversaries of 9/11 obsessing about my womb, in one way or another.

I don't know why, but today is harder than previous years. It seems like logically, every year should be easier. It should be getting better. Right?

I started to write one of those minute-by-minute "where were you when the towers fell" entries but stopped halfway through and wiped the whole thing away with one long stroke of the backspace key. I don't know why. I've been reading the 2,996 project tributes all morning, and everything else is ringing kind of hollow right now.

I was stuck in traffic. I was close enough to the Pentagon to see wisps of black smoke on the horizon. It seemed to smoke for days afterwards and resembled a blown-out birthday candle.  The smoke told me that what I was hearing on the radio must really be happening -- the planes and the towers and the car bombs at the Capitol and the fire at the USA Today building and Air Force One being shot down and the world is ending and we were all going to die.

I drove to work anyway. I didn't know what else to do. My boss told me to get a hotel room in Virginia -- he told me not to go home to the District because...well, he didn't know. None of us knew. We were all targets, we were all sitting ducks, we were all going to die.

I went home and watched CNN for three days straight, trying to simultaneously numb myself to the horror while desperately wanting to feel something -- anger, anxiety, sorrow -- any feeling that told me I was still alive.

I was never in any danger. I didn't know anyone who died. I played the same six degrees of tragedy separation game as everybody else -- endlessly retelling the same stories about close calls and near misses and my brother's roomate's friend's cousin and the smoke I saw from miles and miles away.

Five years later, I'm still doing it. I'm still struggling to give my feelings some kind of context.

I watched Spike Lee's documentary about Hurricane Katrina on HBO the other day. The whole thing runs over four hours, but I didn't even make it through the opening title sequence before fat tears of rage started to pour down my face. The sight of a parent handing over their baby to a rescuer was bad enough, but it was the realization that the baby was wearing a goddamned swim diaper that sent me into big heaving sobs.

And maybe that's part of why today seems harder. Why the events of 9/11 refuse to fade into the past but instead seem closer than ever. I have less faith in our government's ability to protect us, to capture the bad guys, to provide us with food or water, or simply to not strand us on a highway overpass for days on end.

Or maybe it's something much simpler than that.


Welcome to the human race, sweet man. I'm sorry we suck.



We do suck, but it's faces like that that give me hope in myself and the next generation. Very touching post.


Pictures of babies always make me feel better. Thanks.


Thank you so much for this. I was trying to think of whether it's worth blogging about my 9/11 memories because I still can't quite say what I felt. Because I feel that as callous as it sounds, I didn't feel it the same way most people did. Like you, I tried to feel something, but what? I still can't quite figure it out. I felt more strongly about Katrina than I did about 9/11. But your mention of the government, the human race sort of summed it up for me. I can't be one of those "boot-in your ass" (Oh, how I hate that song! I haven't even heard it, but I hate it.) patriots because of all of the OTHER details that 9/11 brought about. It's more than skin-deep.


i always think that too.. like i didn't mean to bring blake into THIS kind of world


"I'm still struggling to give my feelings some kind of context."

That is a wonderful observation.

"I have less faith in our government's ability to protect us, to capture the bad guys, to provide us with food or water, or simply to not strand us on a highway overpass for days on end."

I think a lot of people are left wondering why it seems to be getting more difficult as years go by, and I think you hit the nail on the head.


I'm with you, Amalah. Today seems so much harder than the past few years. I feel somber. I feel numb.

I feel similar, though not quite to the same degree, as I did five years ago today.

Every tribute, every remembrance, everything that I've read makes me pause, think, and mourn.

I wonder if I'll feel this same way in another five years?


I chose baby pictures over 9/11 memorials today too, and I think you've explained why.


That is exactly why I am having a harder time each year...I keep acquiring children! Now having two and one on the way, it seems to strike a very personal cord this year. I hated to send my son to school.


Wonderfully written!

I feel the same way. Looking at my boys, I'm reminded of how I ultimately ,and almost painfully, have no control over what happens to them in the "great big world". Sometimes I feel almost selfish for having them. I want to keep anything and everything awful and hurtful from ever entering their tiny, perfect, worlds. I kills me that I can't.


Beautifully put.

anne nahm

It is stunning to me that my children were born into a world where 9/11 will probably simply be part of their History textbooks. Something that happened before they were even born. The way Pearl Harbor was for me.

Wacky Mommy

I keep feeling like I'm sending my kids out to save the world. Lot of responsibility for a four- and seven-year-old. I have heart that they will make a difference, though, and help make things better.


My oldest was 1 1/2 years old on 9/11/01. I remember that after his birth, which was a horrific emergency c section with a difficult recovery, I didn't want more kids. I thought I was just lucky, after nearly bleeding to death, to have one kid.

When 9/11 happened, it seemed to reinforce my desire to only have one. See how much we suck? See what a horrible world it is?

Then my husband got a job (as a civilian, but he was once an Air Force officer) at a military base. I had a chance to meet and talk with the men and women who are dedicated to serve and protect our country--and us. They were optimistic, they were proud of our country, and they were hopeful.

I turned to my husband and said, "I think I kind of want another kid."

I can't imagine life without my second. He is a troublemaker, but so sweet you just want to eat him up at the same time. We're expecting our third in December.

Life goes on--it has to. There has never been a generation that did not live with threat from somewhere, or from within. My grandparents had the Depression, the ghosts of WWI, lived through WWII and Pearl Harbor. My parents lived through Vietnam--my dad got drafted the day after he and my mom got back from their honeymoon, and they spent the first three years of their marriage with him off at sea somewhere. Somehow they found the hope and will to keep it going.

If we don't, the bad guys do win.

But still, I'm hugging my kids extra tight today and remembering the day my toddler pointed up at the sky, the silent, blue sky, and asked, "Where planes, Mommy?" because no planes were flying overhead. And the birds weren't singing that day either.


My baby was only 3 months old on 9/11 and my first thought was "shit. What did I bring my little girl into?" And I agree, I don't feel a lick safer than I did five years ago. In fact, probably less so. I never thought I would see war in my lifetime. Now my brother in law is currently on his second tour in Iraq and the whole thing still boggles my mind.


I'm right there with you, this one is harder than the others - I'm sure not only because of the 5th anniversary which the media are expounding, but also HELLO, these tiny little people who live with us.

Because if stuff like this happens to us, how do you protect the tinies.

Zoe was born on 8/3 last year, and I always say I had the worst maternity leave ever because of Katrina. Hormonal new mother + tiny nursing infant + 24hr CNN coverage of babies in swim diapers taken out of the arms of their mothers and fathers?!??? = you get the picture.

Today, because I don't know what the hell else to do, I'm going to hug my family really tight and whisper thanks for everything, for this life, whatever it is.


Beautifully written.


9/11 was the day I really learned what it meant to HATE. Not really a popular topic for a blog post, so maybe I'll avoid trying to capture my feelings for all to see. I hate them, those terrorist who have such little regard for human life.

But I look at my children, at Noah, at all of them... I read Naked Ovary and see her tales of meeting Maya and my heart is full of as much hope as it can hold.

Maybe it's only because I have hope that I can suppress the hate...


Well said. I guess the optimist in me believes that our kids will get it right, do it better, learn from our mistakes. I am not happy with the current state of affairs, but I am eternally hopefull that there is good in the heart of everyone and that that good will someday prevail.

michelle/weaker vessel

Exactly. That's why I spent the week post-Katrina crashing around in a Hulk Mad paroxysm of confusion and rage. All politics aside, four years after 9/11/2001, we should have had our shit together way more than those sad, piddly, half-assed rescue efforts would suggest.


Thank you. That picture of Noah makes me feel better.


In the aftermath of Katrina, thinking about 9/11 is even more upsetting because the former was a natural disaster over which we had little control, whereas the latter was intentional and planned by sons, brothers, and husbands who should know better.


Amen, sister.


I was pregnant with my first daughter on 9/11 and I kept thinking "what the hell kind of world are we bringing a child into?" There is hope, though. Always.


We don't suck, Amy. Don't buy into the collective guilt garbage. Some people do indeed suck--like the bumper sticker says, "Mean People Suck." You are not mean. Most of your readers are not mean, except perhaps for Claudia the Plagiarist (she may just be stooopid) and Y who wants to get all justifiably Latina on her. Hah!

We inhabit a beautiful world, and we need to treasure the beautiful moments and the beautiful people.


i too feel that this 9/11 is worse. i think it's because i now live in manhattan across from a tent full of unidentified people/parts of people that still haven't been figured out from that terrible day 5 years ago. thank you for this, it's the first thing i've been able to read about 9/11 today.


It's funny, how often pain doesn't exactly lessen with time, but how it becomes almost more tangible. As if it's sinking in, year by year.

At least, that was my experience when my dad died. And has been my experience with researching and writing a tribute for a NewYork firefighter for today. His family only misses him more every year.

But, then, there is hope in such love, I think. There is hope in such an amazing, endless power to miss someone we've lost. To miss something we've lost.

Even if it's missing the illusion of protection. The illusion of being one-hundred percent "safe."

Your Noah, and all the little ones, and all the familial love, makes this world so much more beautiful.


I had found out I was pregnant a few days before 9/11 and I can't tell you how scared I was to bring a child into this world. My only hope is that as they get older, our world can become a better place through knowledge, not ignorance and hate.


Thank you, that is the most moving thing I have read about 9/11.


That's exactly how I feel.

Katie Kat

I have commented on other blogs with my thoughts, so I thought I'd share them here as well.

I was on my way to work when I heard the news. When I got there, we all sat in the back room watching everything unfold on TV. I watched in horror as the second plane hit on live TV. It was so surreal. I remember crying - yelling out "What the hell is going on?" and wondering if this was the beginning of the end. My sister lived in DC and I frantically called her (her husband worked 2 blocks from the White House). She couldn't get ahold of him and we talked briefly in serious and hushed tones about whether or not the country was on the brink of disaster.

Then I got mad. Really mad. And indignant. "They" had awoken the sleeping dragon. "They" didn't know who they were fucking with. And "they" were going to pay. I wanted blood. I wanted to drop the bomb on their stupid, backwards country and turn it into a sheet of glass. I flew my flag and I held my head high as a proud American.

And I was proud. I was proud of the people who stood up and said "no more." I was proud of the survivors, of the families of the victims; of the firefighters and policemen; of the average Joes that risked their lives (and some lost them) to help others.

But it is human nature for that feeling to fade. It's like when people tell you to appreciate every single breath you take and every single day you are alive. I agree that is important, but if that is all you do all day you will forget to live and hope for the future. So, I do remember, but I don't forget that there is no way to guarantee it won't happen again and that it won't be worse this time.

It's a new world we live in. And we need to realize America is no longer the super power it once was. We are damaged and weak in places our enemies can exploit. I truly believe it's time to examine how we can strengthen our own infrastructure instead of "liberating" those who have no interest in (or love of) our way of life. We're not missionaries here, we are a people drowning in our own pride. What we do now, in the face of the future and in spite of the past, is the most important decision that will be made in our lives.

That is how I remember.


The worst thing about living through Katrina was the feeling that here I was, as a parent, my kid only 2 months old, and I couldn't protect him against ANYTHING. And his government didn't care about him, or us.

I wonder daily what kind of world I will leave to my son. We all know bad things are out there, and we can be pretty impotent to stop them. My only reaction is to try to make HIS little world the best it can be. It's when our ability to do even that is threatened that it hurts so much.


Every other year, I practically ignored it. This year, I don't know, I feel more miserable than I thought I would. I feel sick. I actually wrote a regular blog post, then I changed it. I couldn't really ignore it this year, like I did the other years.

Maxine Dangerous

I was going to write a where-I-was-then post for my blog today, but decided not to. The thought of reliving the day, even though I neither live in New York, nor do I know anyone who died in the attacks, just made me feel ill. I included 9/11 stuff in the blog post I -did- write. I guess I wanted people to know I hadn't forgotten, though I don't know how I could.


Thanks, now I am bawling and thinking about building a underground shelter in our backyard to protect the precious ones.


That was really moving. The world in general may suck, but at least you know that Noah will be loved and nurtured and grow into a fine young man. You never know, he may end up making a huge difference to the world.

Either way, there is still hope for us all, despite the fear and hatred and.... badness in the world. When there are still cute little faces like Noah's it makes me happy, even if it brings a tear to my eye whilst doing so.


Between Spike Lee's documentary (absolutely killed me) and the 9/11 5-year anniverary, it's easy to slip in a sort of "the world sucks" weepy depression these days. Like getting a nice sucker punch, twice, to remember such horrid events in our recent history.

I just have to dig deep and recall the Anne Frank mentality that, inspite all that's happened, that people are really good at heart, and I think both tragedies/disasters showed the generosity of the human spirit showcased that end as well. Otherwise it's just tears trying to wrap my head around the blantant disregard for human life.


Babies make everything harder, don't they?

The Wooden Porch

My brother-in-law and their family lived in Washington DC. He was working in the pentagon when it was attacked. That day and the day I lost my stillborn son are the two worst days of my life. Please read my story:

On Thursday, I'll post a picture of him.


I am with you on this one! It is definitely harder with kids around to face what has happened to our world. I, too, think this year is harder than previous years. I, too, question why? Today is definitely a somber one. But with a sweet face like your son, or any of our children, we should remember why we are here and what we can teach them for the future. Thanks for the post, it was moving.


yeah. yep.


From a person who was in NYC that day, the part of this post that is most meaningful to me is how well you captured the confusion of the first few dozen minutes of September 11th. I laughed when I read your fourth paragraph, but at the time, I did actually fear that we were all going to die.


My biggest act of faith came on the morning of September 12th when I realized I had a choice to make. And I put my two beautiful girls on the school bus and confirmed to them and the world that we were going to be the land of the free and the home of the brave.


A nice post as usual. There is something in the tone that conveys to me you are moving through your grief and processing your feelings on the matter. Seems like a good thing from way over here in cyberspace.

I don't really share your sentiment, though, that we suck as species. You should probably check out the discovery channel's 2 hour (or so) special on 9/11 that has been running for a few weeks now. Then you can see how great we can be.

Watch it and cry like I did when everyday heros go to work.

It's easy to do bad things. It is harder to do good things. So, I am never amazed or disappointed at how bad things can be but instead cheered, inspired and encouraged when people do good things.

While a few bad apples can do a lot of damage, at least in this case, they don't ruin the bunch.

Reading you archives I was stunned at just how many people are numbed by this experience or felt nothing. That is, to me, a telling cultural sign. As a society we have, for too long it would appear, been isolated from the rest of the world. Tragedy and suffering and the likes of 9/11 are still very common place though nothing like that has happened here before or since those fateful numbers. Much worse still happens other places.

To feel is human. To empathize is a fine spiritual goal.


Well put, Amy. Like you and so many of your commenters, this anniversary hit me harder than the others. To some extent, I share your "we suck" mentality. Although I don't have any children, I imagine this is a scary world in which to raise a child. However, something Rudy Giuliani said on the news tonight struck me. It's not a novel sentiment, but I think it's one I needed to be reminded of. He said that 9/11 was a juxtaposition of the absolute worst of humanity, and the absolute best. Amidst evil, horrific acts of terrorism, people bonded together, helped one another, and showed true bravery, compassion and courage. I guess when you think about it that way, it's not such a terrible world we live in after all.


I posted about this today - I DID do the where I was when I heard story on my blog ( My sweet son was born on 9/12/01. I've never really acknowledged how I felt at that time, and it is particularly hard for me because he, my son, almost didn't make it, and I could only handle one trauma at a time, and the one I dealt with was the one closer to home. I had more trouble on the one year anniversary of 9/11, and subsequent years, but not this year. But we have to remember:

Our grandparents faced the horrors of the depression, fear surrounding WWI and WWII (who can watch Band of Brothers and not be both struck with the horror of what we as humans bring upon each other, and moved at the unity and love we can show each other at the same time?). Our parents had Vietnam. People in Israel and Palestine and Iraq and Afghanistan and Liberia and Sudan and other place in Northern Africa experience untold horrors all the time. Yet we all keep going on. We have to. Otherwise those that would tear down life have done their jobs quite successfully, and we fail to do our jobs at all.


This year does feel different. I'm one of the 2996 bloggers, and that alone took me on a wild ride. I was assigned the name of a man who lived here, in my city, of SF. I sit in my cube, two blocks from where he used to work. He was in NYC for a tradeshow. It brought the tragedy much closer to home, knowing this man had lived a life like mine.

Amy, a lovely post. You always give voice and spirit to what we're thinking. And that little Noah brings a big smile.

shy me

We don't suck... it's... just...

it's hard.

I dunno.


I'm feeling so many of the same things. Wonderful post.


I have nothing to say about 9/11. I am commenting (I think for the first time) just to say "wow, Noah looks a lot like you in this photo." And he looks very cute in his swim diaper. :)


My great-aunt Pearl died today at 11:15 in the morning.

I had to take a step back when I read your post and remember the greater tragedy in the face of our personal one. Thanks for the perspective.


When Noah is old enough to know who they are, take him over to the nearest firehouse and introduce him to some heros. Think about the fact that the men and women you meet would do the same thing to save you and your son. It will reaffirm your faith in humanity.


We all have our own story for this day.


Here's a great quote, from Angel, none the less:
Darla is standing on top of a building looking over the city below, her hands cradling her pregnant belly.

Angel: "You always did love a view."

Darla: "Look at it. Listen to it. Can you smell it? This world. This horrible world. Why would anyone want to bring a baby into it?"

Angel: "To make it better, maybe?"

:) To make it better, definetly.


Out here on the West Coast, it was a whole different story. We only saw it on television. Television, where we also watch Law and Order and CSI. So it didn't seem so...real to me. Which is sad.

Thanks for this post & the great picture.

the bee

Perhaps Noah and his pals will be just the ticket to fix the planet . I have faith in him .


Wow. Reading your beautifully written post and then all the comments moved me so much. I can only imagine what it is like to be in the US on the anniversary of that day, it is different over here, but still very much on people's minds.

I find all the comments urging you to re-consider your belief that people suck really inspiring. Some of the things that people have said about it being easier to do bad things than good, about the brave and good people who, for the majority, populate the world.

Noah is so very gorgeous, as well. What an angel.


I grew up in Northern Ireland, surrounded by terrorism, soldiers with submachine guns, bombs, shootings and general fear. My childhood was spent watching the local news and seeing the lastest atrocities laid out in front of us. As a child I had to run to escape a bomb at an event we were at. As a teenager I saw a man get shot. In Northern Ireland we went into every day not sure that we would come out the other side.

But, life continued. Children were born, people got married, old people died in their beds. We sat exams, went to school, played with our friends. Life seemed pretty normal to us.

Terrorism is not new. It has changed and gone global. It is still evil.

But, the response to it is what scares me. It is impossible to fight terror with hate and fear. If we fight back with more war and death and horror, we only create more terrorists. Northern Ireland shows the futility of fighting back with hate. The only way to move on into a peaceful world is to learn to understand each other and to try and listen and to understand the reasons. We have to learn why anyone could do something so terrible. Then we have to make it so that they don't feel that it is necessary.

I don't know what the answers are. But I think our governments should at least be trying to promote peace. Not adding to the hate.


I really don't know what to say your post, and birchsprite's comment, have overwhelmed me. It's such a shame that the little bit of evil in the world constantly seems to outweigh the good and the magical,

Maybe I am just getting old?


At least one thing can make you feel a little bit better and that is the fact that that beautiful baby will still have a few years of innocence left. If he loses that, then they win.

Silly Hily

You know, I thought all day yesterday about how different 9-11 would have been for me if I had my two preshus babies when it happened. I must say, I'm so glad at the time that I was single with no children because really, I only had to worry about myself. Now though, GOD, now? I'm terrified that something like this might happen again and how I don't know that I would be able to hold it together for my children. I have to be the grown up. I have to be the strong one. I have to make sure they are safe. That is what I can't seem to grasp. How do I do that?

Or, in short, I'll just say, I feel ya Amy.


A day late, but I have to thank you for being so blunt. When I wrote my post on 9/11 yesterday I thought it rang a bit depressing, especially after I kept reading other posts by people inspired by the heroism they saw that day. I wish I could be like that. But, sometimes, I just can't let things go and see that (very faint and thin) silver lining. As a human race, we suck... we are tainted indeed. Yet, there's still hope for us, your picture of Noah brings that home.


Thanks for this. . I also thought the world was ending. And as fucked up as everything is right now, I'm still pretty grateful for the miracle of us not descending into some Mad Max post-apocalyptic world.


Right on playa. nice.

p.s. come back, I left you a tribute of my own! (:


makes you want to hug your family, your kids just a little tighter.


Children give you a whole new perspective. Actually, I was thankful that this year, unlike two previous 9/11 anniversaries... we were not in the Children's Hospital with my daughter. Talk about a downer on top of a downer day.


Yes. I feel the same need to apologize to my girls for bringing them into this muck. But then I see them laughing and playing in the swimming pool and I hope it's worth it for them after all.


For no reason at all I started blobbing though your blog. Right from birthstories and everything.. You are AWESOME!!
You give me tears, laughter, thoughts and joy!!

/Consistant reader and refresher.


We don't ALL suck - that's the important bit.


He looks all "Magnum" in that picture.


Wishing you and yours peace, Amy.


That was painful to read, because it pretty much sums up all the feelings I spend most of my time trying to avoid.

My son was born August 20, 2001. I was holding him when the second tower fell.

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