My Son Was Born on September 11


My son was born on September 11, 2003: the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, on the Pentagon, and on the airplane that nosedived into a field in rural Pennsylvania.

Workers stand an American flag amid the rubble of the September 11 bombing as the sun sets behind the buildings.
We remember the thousands of lives taken in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

The events of September 11, 2001 ushered in a new era for the United States, where we became all too familiar with two of the most powerful and dreaded words in our language: domestic terrorism. And yet, two years later, I was full of joy and hope because I was about to meet my firstborn, my son Alden.

Alden was nine days post-term and, despite bumpy backroad rides, yoga, and spicy food, he showed no sign of wanting to greet the outside world. The results of an ultrasound on September 10 determined that the wait was over. My baby boy needed to come out. Now. My blood pressure flew up, my plans for a water birth went out the window, and I was admitted to the birthing center.

As midnight approached on September 10, something kinda… occurred to me. I turned to my midwife and said rather sheepishly,

I’m going to have this baby on September 11, aren’t I?

Her answer: Yup. The Pitocin drip to induce labor was well underway.

On the afternoon of September 11, 2003, we took a photo with our newborn side-by-side with the day’s edition of the newspaper, to commemorate what was happening in the world the day Alden came to be. The headline read simply, “Remembering 9/11.”

A day associated with grief and loss became, for my family, a day also laden with joy and celebration.

I’ve always wanted to float giant, reflective, numbered occasion balloons from the porch railing in celebration. This weekend, my house will be decked out, and a huge “1” and “8” will be blowing in the wind. The sun will be shining on those balloons in all their golden mylar glory, incongruous on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks, because my son was born on September 11 and Saturday is his 18th birthday.

A white rose lies on a black grainte memorial commemorating people who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11.

There is so much sadness on that day, a nation coming together in remembrance of those lost. I realize that to some, those joyful and tacky balloons on my porch will look bizarre, inappropriate, or even gauche. To that, I say “Namaste.” We say “Namaste” at the close of a yoga class, with the intention that “the light in me honors the light in you.” I humbly respect the pain of our nation, I grieve for the hundreds of beautiful lives needlessly taken, and I wish peace to our people.

At the same time, I recognize that good things happen on September 11, too. And I realize that there are many others who are celebrating on this day, and others who have remarkable stories of births during other difficult times for our country, and still others who have birthdays on other unwieldy days that present their own slate of issues.

As Alden grew older, I coached him on how to respond when people asked him if he knew his birth date. It was easy to see that people were often a little taken aback when he answered with one of the most tragic days for our nation. He learned to say,

I was born on September 11, but two years later.

Alden didn’t seem to fully understand the significance of his birthday, or why so many people responded strangely when they learned of his birth date, until he came home from Montessori School one day and asked me, with some gory fascination, if I knew ALL about what happened on his birthday. Yes. Yes, I think I do. Then, we researched al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden. He was fascinated with stories of Rob O’Neill, a Navy SEAL who is credited with assassinating bin Laden. Together, like so many others, we made the terrorist attacks part of our story.

Truth be told, I don’t like it when people refer to September 11, 2001 as just “September 11.”

Yes, there’s the 9-11 reference, and it’s convenient shorthand, but hey… Language is so powerful. September 11 is just a date, and it’s a date we can associate with whatever we like. I prefer to say “the terrorist attacks.” For a long time, I’ve had quite a visceral reaction to hearing people talk about September 11. Each year on this date, we mourn those lost and remember Americans’ great, collective pain. But September 11 is also one of the most momentous occasions of my life. My response may be completely unreasonable, but hey, we take people as we find them, and that’s where I am.

Coincidentally, our daughter was born (three years later) on Memorial Day. She too was post-term and my midwife said that if she induced my daughter’s birth on that Monday holiday, she would be able to be there with me for the duration because she would not have clinical hours. So Memorial Day, it was. The headline of the newspaper that day also commemorated lives lost, just like on my son’s birthday. My family jokes that both our kids were born on days that are associated with death and destruction. Ha. I’ll put that in the category of #funnynotfunny.

And so it is that on this Saturday, September 11, 2021, we will be having a party, as we have for so many years now. We are celebrating because my dear son Alden turns 18. It’s a milestone birthday and he’s a senior in high school, headed to college, so chances are it’s also his last birthday at home.

We are having a party because I’m proud as heck of him and he deserves the world. He deserves this whole darn world, ridden with terrorism and viruses, joy and aspiration.

A young man dressed in a formal black suit leans casually against a wood rail fence. He is smiling.
Mr. September 11, 2003. All grown up.

September 11 is the birthday of my treasured son, Alden. Before anything else, I equate September 11 with happiness and celebration. That will always come first for me. I marvel at the world; that a day of such joy for me is such a heavy-hearted day for so many others. I do understand the pain of so many, but my joy in bringing my son into the world that day will always take priority in my heart. Alden was born on September 11, and I would not change that even if I could.

How do you reconcile your emotions of love and celebration when so many others are so somber?


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My Son Was Born on September 11

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Vicky Parra Tebbetts
Originally from Connecticut, Vicky lived on a farm in Cabot for 22 years before recently moving to South Burlington seeking greater opportunity in high school education. She is a mom to a teen boy and girl, and a Goldendoodle who grew up to look more like a poodle. A reticent soccer mom and former lawyer who owns her own marketing and communications business, she spends most of her work time playing with words. She mourns the demise of the serial comma. Don’t ask her if she passed the bar exam (she did) and why she doesn’t have her own website if she writes them for others (she’s been working on her own site for about six years). She’s outside every day, and you may find her sitting in the sun in January, wrapped in blankets. Swinger of birches and lover of all things Vermont, she hikes, paddles, cooks gluten-free and vegan food, reads meaningless novels, and is a recent Pilates convert. She loves to visit her happy place any time of year in Ogunquit, Maine.


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