Two weeks before the attack, I was at a birthday party in Pebble Beach. Amongst the merriment, it was mentioned that my husband and I had a cause for celebration as well. At the time, I was five months pregnant. I sat on a couch and a woman sat next to me. She introduced herself as Lauren and congratulated me on my pregnancy. We talked for a while and she lamented about how she and her husband had been trying for several years to get pregnant, but it never took. She cried about wanting a baby so badly, but it obviously wasn’t in the cards for her, so she had finally given up. I hope you realize how lucky you are, were her last spoken words to me.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was in the hospital as the city of Los Angeles went into shut down mode. We were all fearful we would be next, so the mayor took precautions. With the horror and the chaos of the world surrounding me, I was under an ultrasound machine, looking at a picture of my unborn baby for the first time. While people were dying, some of whom I knew, I was experiencing one of the most incredible moments of my life. At the time I didn’t know if it was a boy or a girl, all I knew was that this baby had a perfect pug nose, a head the same shape as his/her father’s and all the fingers and toes. This was by far the most emotional day of my life. I was experiencing fear, elation, sorrow and joy all at once, and each of these sentiments was exaggerated by my fluctuating hormones.
After the attacks, I looked at the list of victims who had died in one of the World Trade Center towers. I had gone to school in New York, I used to know people who worked in the Twin Towers, so the chances of my recognizing some of the names on the list was inevitable. I saw the name of my friend’s father and of a boy from college I had once kissed after a night of drinking Guinness. There were other names that were familiar to me, but no one I was especially close to. It just never occurred to me to look at the flight manifest.
I was watching a news broadcast of the victims on Flight 93, the plane bound for San Francisco that went down in Western Pennsylvania. This was a plane of heroes and heroines, of fighters who refused to give up. And as they showed the photos of the 33 passengers and seven crew members, there was one face that I recognized. It was Lauren, from the party at Pebble Beach. She had been in New Jersey for her grandmother’s funeral and had decided to take an earlier flight. She wasn’t even supposed to be on the plane. She had been excited to see her husband and celebrate her news. After all those years of trying, she was finally carrying a child, and she had found out only days after telling me she had given up.
I will never forget Lauren’s poignant words to me, words that at the time were spoken out of angst, and a possible prediction of her fate. Every September 11, I not only mourn the loss of all those who had mercilessly died, I take time to reflect on just how “lucky” I am, and take inventory of all the good fortune I have been blessed with. The irony of Lauren’s death while she had a budding life growing inside of her makes me pause and realize that life is erratic, and that the hand of death can be fickle, not only taking the old and the sick. The only thought that gives me comfort in regards to Lauren’s story is knowing that she and her baby are finally together and that she was on a plane with others who don’t know the meaning of giving up.