I have five grandchildren who call me Gramcracker! The one and only baby shower I had was for my second granddaughter, born the day after September 11, 2001. I was teaching 4th grade at the time, and my colleagues and room parents conspired to throw me a shower about a week after she arrived!
My school handled 9/11 beautifully; it was the hardest day of my life in 33 years of education. The principal walked from room to room with a handwritten note to keep TVs and phones off.....with the simple message that something terrible was happening in NYC.I can't believe all of us held it together. I went home, but could not relax or sleep; knowing I'd have to be strong again the next day when my students returned knowing what had happened.
Some arrived solemnly; others cranked up from seeing too many images they should have been shielded from. I tossed the lesson plans in favor of discussing and drawing their feelings and reactions......but the morning no sooner got started when my son called and said "come now......the baby's on the way!" Turning these scared, shocked kiddos over to a substitute was hard, but luckily I had a good one who knew the kids and my routine!
Kayleigh was born that afternoon. She was our ray of sunshine and reassurance of life after the horrible tragedies of the previous day. I was torn between being with my students and caring for her 3 year-old big sister; but my family needed me too.
When I went back to school the following Monday, I shared her picture and told stories about her and her sister to my class. They were thrilled and spent their free time making cards for me! I took the cards home to share with my granddaughter and husband.
It was the next day or so when I was totally surprised! A colleague came in and asked me to check on something while she watched my class. It must have taken more than a few minutes.....because by the time I returned, there were parents and teachers and a cake waiting for me! The children gathered around me excitedly as I unwrapped their gifts.....each one bringing happiness and joy as I told how baby Kayleigh would love it!
The baby shower will always be the reminder of how my students, family and I healed and moved forward to embrace our beautiful world. It was originally planned as a pre-baby event; but circumstances brought her to us 3 weeks early. I'm forever grateful to my teaching pals and the parents who pulled it off. Kayleigh is now fifteen and still has the pink, long-eared bunny with her name on it; thanks to one of these 4th grade girls!
That's how I remembered 9/11 for many years. In the fall of 2014, Kayleigh and I went to New York City to visit the Memorial. We saw a play, rode the subway and ferries, skated in Rockefeller Center and took part in a Today Show broadcast. But we'll never forget that cold and rainy day we walked around the fountain, brushing our fingers across the names in a silent crowd. It is the most spiritual place I've ever been in; a feeling of sadness but also uplifting. We felt as though we'd honored not just those who died, but those who lived to forever shine the light. This is what filled me yesterday as the family gathered a day early to celebrate this growing up girl.