september 11 – the happiest day of my life

hands holding a baby“what was the happiest day of your life?” this question comes up, sometimes. until seven years ago, it was “september 11, 1973.”

that was the day my oldest child was born. it was the least pleasant of my three births, what with me an unwed teenage mother in a hopelessly old-fashioned veteran’s hospital in munich, an arch-catholic part of germany, and my poor little infant immediately snatched away in the belief that sterile hospital cradles were the best thing that could happen to a newborn.

never mind any of that.

i was insanely happy.

despite the exhaustion of labour, i couldn’t sleep the whole night. the miracle of the experience kept looping around in my mind and heart. one moment, excruciating pain, the other, a new person emerging into the world, healthy, with a loud voice, 10 fingers, 10 toes, eyes, everything! absolutely mind-boggling.

my other two births were even easier than the first and quite a bit more pleasant, especially the last one, complete with bob marley, miles davis and glenn gould providing accompaniment, and a bunch of friends and family present. but september 11, 1973 – well, it was that special first time.

when the day after i found out that there had been a military coup in chile, which made it prohibitive for us to move there, i was shocked, but somehow it couldn’t wipe out the overwhelming happiness i felt at having become a mother.

and then september 11, 2001 happened. a day that, in my mind, was dedicated to my son. like so many of us, i remember much of that day – how, for example, i was so shaken by the events that i spilled a big bag full of sushi on the street that i had bought for lunch for a friend and myself.

it’s such a little thing. much bigger things have happened and are still happening that have their roots in september 11, for example people experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, as predicted here and then later confirmed in a study here.

and yet, we almost always come back to what is personally most significant for us, don’t we? for me, it’s the irresolvable clash between the memory of the happiest moment of my life and the horror of the most violent moment on U.S. soil.

as i am writing this, i realize that i want to find a way to elevate the beauty of my son’s birth over the horror of 9/11 and the disconnect i feel over holding both in my awareness. not that i want to, in any way, diminish or forget the terrible suffering of those who died and their families, friends and loved ones.

but peace will always be this: holding life up higher than destruction.

image by coast guard BM


  1. That was a lovely post. I realised this morning which day it was and it does make you think sad thoughts. You´re right though.. if you have a good event, then you as well make your days happier, instead of dwelling on something which cannot be changed, never forgotten, but never changed. I hope you enjoy celebrating your son´s birthday!

  2. Fascinating!

    I’ve read two other blogs today from people who have friends born on 9/11…

    They also feel that life must be held higher than death.

    One even said the victims of the tragedy would want us to celebrate life on the day of their death…

    Life is Existence.
    Death is Nonexistence.


    ~ Alex from Our Evolution

    Alexander M Zoltai’s last blog post..Global Unity

  3. You’re right Isabella. Despite the horror and the tragedy, we still need to find ways to connect the good things with the dates when unfortunate things happened. My birthday is in exactly 8 days, and it was on the day that Mexico City’s earthquake devastated hundreds of homes and killed hundreds of people. However, my friends still celebrate Sep 19th because it is the day when I was born.

    It would be silly not to do it just on account of being “aware”. You have many reasons to be happy and they are associated with an event that happened more than 18 years before the unfortunate and tragic events of Sep 11. Happy birthday to your son!

    Raul’s last blog post..By: raincoaster

  4. “but peace will always be this: holding life up higher than destruction.”

    I agree. Many blessings to you and your son for many years to come.

    Sadly, those who engage in the kind of activity that brings about the 9/11 that is still happening have the completely opposite view:

    “We are going to win, because they love life and we love death.”

    I can’t even begin to figure out how to respond that, but what is dangerous is people who love life ignoring and not confronting the message they are sending.

  5. Hi Isabella,

    I’m really not sure about that last sentence. And I’m not sure why – but I’m disturbed and dissatisfied.

    The feeling I get is competition or triumph. Not inclusion.

    This leads to some awfully complicated philosophy I know.

    I hope you get what my disturbance is about. For the moment I haven’t been able to think it through any further.

    Evan’s last blog post..A Great Self-Development Site

  6. thanks for all your comments, @lena, @alex, @inspirationbit.

    good to know someone else with a similar experience, @raul.

    @al thanks for reminding us that other people think differently. this sort of passion is so alien to me. i am tempted to call it hatred but am not sure whether that’s the right word. maybe it’s something that i need to learn more about.

    @evan, thanks for your comment. yes, i think i know what you mean. maybe that’s why i haven’t yet found a way to “elevate” (<-- triumph? competition?) my son's birth over the tragedy. maybe the hands in the photography need to hold more.

  7. “But peace will always be this: holding life up higher than destruction.”

    Maybe the disturbance you guys sense is that such a simple truth requires a long journey. I mean, peace and comfort are generally two very different things. Peace is, oftentimes, an uneasy state – held together by tenuous threads of life because there simply isn’t much in life which clearly outweighs the destructive forces we face, and it’s always and forever a balancing act.

    Perhaps it’s in the journey that we move closer to each other, not merely in the words. The moments themselves are what are precious – what bring us comfort and joy. We need to string them together with narrative, though. Give that peace a voice which is loud enough. I think, maybe, doing that is not so easy ‘eh.

  8. It was my happiest day of my life when my son as born 20 months ago. There were smiles on everyone’s faces, and it was a wonderful time.

  9. It’s nice to know that people still kept their chins up in the face of such evil. You’re an inspiration to us all.

    Glenn’s last blog post..Learned

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