Beyond 9/11: Finding the Silver Lining

I’m really happy to be getting out of town for 9/11. My husband and I are in a B&B with no TV which suits me just fine. Normally, I’m the kind of person who watches the wall-to-wall coverage on cable news of big events to an extent that others (aforementioned husband) find irritating. However, having lived through September 11th, 2001 in New York City I have no desire to relive it. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the importance of memorializing the dead and marking the anniversary. I just don’t need to immerse myself in it and I’d rather leave it to others.

Photo Courtesy of Pnoeric

As awful as that day was - and as much as it lead to many of our country’s current, self-inflicted problems - it also changed a few lives for the better. Like many others, I’ve been operating under the assumption that there was a post-9/11 “baby boomlet.” According to that is probably just a myth. There were surges and declines in the birth rate in the summer of 2002, but there is no solid evidence that there was actually a direct link between an increased birth rate and 9/11.

Photo Courtesy of Radio Nederland Wereldomroep

There is, however, plenty of anecdotal evidence that the disaster caused many Americans to re-evaluate the trajectory of their lives. For me it deepened my desire to go to journalism school and become a professional teller of non-fiction stories. I also didn’t know it at the time, but my husband told me it altered the way he saw our relationship. We had been dating for about a year, but I remember that first year as being a bit rocky. It wasn’t always clear where things were headed or if we were going to stay together. He said that day brought things into focus for him — made him a little more serious about it.

For others though, the lesson that “life is short” had an even deeper impact. A friend from New York, who is now based in Los Angeles, told me that it “accelerated” her plans to have a child. Dana Maze Ehrlich is an e-commerce entrepreneur ( who grew up in Long Island and lived in both Washington D.C. and Manhattan. Her husband had a colleague who died on the flight that crashed into the Pentagon and for weeks she could see the rising plume of smoke from her 10th floor apartment in New York City. Over Facebook she told me, “Well, I think we were always thinking about having a child. Yet, post-9/11 and in our mid-30s we accelerated the discussion and got working on it. We were lucky and were pregnant 6 to 7 months post-9/11.”

Photo Courtesy of Radio Nederland Wereldonroep

Baby Boomlet, or not, that dark day caused many people to rethink priorities. It also brought out the best in New Yorkers. In the immediate aftermath — I mean, THAT DAY — New Yorkers tried to find ways to help. We tried to donate blood, which it turned out was sadly not needed. As seen in the documentary, Seven Days in September, a group of people built stretchers from plywood and delivered them to Ground Zero. My now husband walked across the 59th Street bridge into Manhattan (subways weren’t running) so that he could help a friend log the overwhelming amount of news footage his company was accumulating on behalf of a cable news network.

The weeks and months that followed were challenging for everyone in the city, but New Yorkers rose to that challenge. I think Dana captured it perfectly when she wrote to me, “Perhaps the most important impression is how fragile it made me feel. It wasn't just emotional, but also mentally draining and physically uncomfortable. For days, likely weeks, the uncertainty of the country and city's situation was unnerving. Moving, talking and taking action helped. Nothing was more gratifying than working with the American Red Cross as a volunteer serving food to emergency workers at Ground Zero as well as to see the people of NYC - the best in the world - support one another during that time.”