We celebrated my eldest son’s 5th birthday yesterday afternoon. Joyous as birthdays usually are we marveled at him on his brand new red bike, his excitement with a new tee ball set with a real leather baseball glove and his thrill in new puzzles (the kid is a puzzle freak). As with each of Christopher’s birthdays we remember the joy we felt on September 10, 2001. Nothing, absolutely nothing could spoil our joy that day and they days to follow, or so we thought.
We were awaken early Tuesday morning, the day after Christopher’s birth. We were both pretty sleepy as Christopher had kept us up most of the night with his cries of new life, and we were slightly confused as to where we were. We were in a room on the 5th floor at INOVA Fairfax Hospital which was a private room overlooking the helicopter pad on the adjacent hospital building’s roof. The nursing staff had waken Heather to give her whatever treatment new Mom’s get (I think if Dad’s had to go through childbirth it would be best to sedate us for a good three weeks) and to get her scheduled for the breast feeding classes. Heather managed to get to the shower, I of course took over her bed and held Christopher. I turned on the tiny swing arm television set in the room mostly for background noise and just to check out to see what might be happening on my boy’s first day. The nurses and aides came in and out. I didn’t get much of a chance to check out what was happening on the television. As the morning went on I checked in on the Today Show. The volume was down, the picture showed the first tower on fire. I thought to myself well that’s interesting must be a story about he bombing of the Trade Center back in the 90’s., must be the anniversary or something. I turned away and went about the business of a new Dad (total confusion). After several minutes I realized the picture on the television was still of the burning Trade Center and realized the fire was coming from the higher floors as opposed ground level as it was from the earlier bombing. I turned up the volume on the television and started to listen. I quickly realized why they had the pictures they were showing. Then reports of planes crashing in DC started to come in. The plane into the Pentagon had been confirmed, but there was still mass confusion. The activity within the hospital quickly started to move much more rapidly. The silent helicopter on the pad started its rotors, and soon flew off.
Our room also overlooked the entrance to the Emergency Room and we could see doctors, nurses, aides and other staff begin to assemble for a major trauma triage in the circle of the ER driveway and surrounding area. Word quickly spread that INOVA Fairfax would be the primary hospital for non-burn injuries coming from the Pentagon. Burn victims would be going to another DC area hospital equipped to deal with mass burn trauma. As the day went on we were visited by a number of hospital staff and our pediatrician. A couple members of the administrative staff consulted with the pediatrician who informed us they wanted to send us home that day (less than 24 hours after Christopher’s birth). They wanted the beds available incase they needed them for folks coming from the Pentagon. We concurred and were comfortable with agreeing to vacate our room. We started the process of packing up when the pediatrician came back and informed us we would be staying. He told us that although Christopher was perfectly healthy and could be released the hospital decided to allow all new babies to stay incase they needed medical attention they’d be there to receive it as opposed to having to get on the roads which were apparently jammed from mass chaos in and around DC. In the end since there were few survivors with non-burn injuries very few patients came to INOVA.
Heather was able to get rest as I asked where could I give blood. INOVA’s blood collection facility is about a quarter mile down the road from the hospital. I walked down there and found a line from the front door of the building out to Gallows Drive. They were actually turning people away saying give, but come back in two weeks and give then. I returned to the hospital room with my wife and son. We chatted lightly about the day and were relieved to find out my Mother, who often worked in the Pentagon, was not there that day.
The day is one that I certainly will never forget. I was sure to save copies of the Washington Post from both September 10th and September 12, 2001. I often take a look at the headlines as well as my son’s face and remember how much the world changed that day.
I’ll never forget how beautiful the weather was on September 11, 2001. It was an absolutely amazing day. I had a great felling of joy in my heart, but a heavy load of fear in my belly. What had happened? What world did I just bring a new baby boy in to? I gave blood two weeks later and continued to do so every couple of months after that day. However after a year or so of staying on schedule I stopped – just too much of a hassle in the busy lives we live. In remembrance of the events five years ago I think I’ll go give blood and try to get myself back on schedule.
Categories: World War III_