Sep 10, 2006

9/11 Reflections, Part TWO

On September 11, 2001, we awoke after a very restless night. We had to be at the hospital on the wrong side of sunrise. This was the day they were inducing our baby. He had decided that Heather was just as good of a home as any and he refused to budge. After 42 weeks, the doctor decided the best course of action was to give nature a hand. As we drove to the hospital, Heather said that the 11th was a good number for a birthday. We had no idea what was about to happen.

After the induction, we had to sit and wait. A couple hours passed by. Heather was starting to have erratic contractions. And then a nurse walked in and said, "You may want to turn on the tv. A plane just hit the World Trade Center." We didn't understand and thought she meant that some doofus in a Cessna had hit the building. We turned it on right after the second plane struck. I remember that everyone started to understand that something was wrong - that this was more than an accident. For a while it was just surreal. There was this smoke billowing out of the towers. I'm sitting there wondering how in the world they are going to put out the fire so high up. Then the misinformation started coming in. One station reported gunmen in the Capitol. Another said that a truck had exploded on the Washington Mall. There were confirmed reports of a plane hitting the Pentagon and a plane crashing in Pennsylvania. While broadcasting from the Pentagon, one of the reporters even freaked out on air because everyone started yelling that another plane was inbound.

It was like a disaster movie gone crazy. As the smoke continued to billow out we were struggling to figure out what was going on. Heather's progression was slow, but painful. And we couldn't take our eyes off the screen. Then the first tower collapsed. It was right when CBS switched from the morning show with Bryant Gumbel to Dan Rather. There was just confusion everywhere. The nurses were distracted. The doctor was doing his best to act normal. We were getting scared. The second tower fell and I nearly threw up. Seriously - I went in the bathroom and started to cry. What the heck was going on? What were we bringing our kid into? Once that happened, and the stations started to show all the people on the street who couldn't find their family members, we shut the tv off for over a day. We couldn't take it any more. There was a baby coming and Heather needed to focus on that.

It took about 15 hours more until he showed up, and there was a lot of pain in that time. Heather's labor was very hard. And to make all of it worse was the constant fear of the unknown. We were in Jacksonville. There are three navy bases right there. No one knew who was behind the attack. Were they going to target military next? I kept thinking that at any minute we would see troops coming down the halls. Or they would start rushing the injured into the hospital. I was afraid this was the "end times" coming to fruition. I started to worry that we would be killed for our faith and this little baby was going to be alone and crying. I was just sick about everything. People all over were praying the baby wouldn't be born until the 12th - just so he didn't have to share a birthday with this awful event.

After midnight, the doctor decided to do a C-Section. I lost it. I was scared I was going to lose Heather or our child or both. I couldn't handle it. I didn't hide it very well. The doctor told me that he was going to do whatever he could and that he would take care of Heather like he would his own wife. At 2:11am, on Wednesday, September 12, 2001, Josiah David Staples finally was pulled out - after much cajoling and yanking. He was big - nine pounds, four ounces. And he had a big mop of curly black hair. And everything changed.

I had known love before. But not like this. There was this protectiveness and fear in me I had never felt. He wasn't breathing right due to the whole birthing process, so they had to take him into the nursery for extra time. I didn't even get to touch him. I went out into the hall and just stared through the shades. Our family friends were trying to find which one he was. I pointed and said, "The one that looks like a toddler." He was so huge compared to the other babies. Finally he started screaming, which was a good sign. And they took the little guy to Heather. Then I finally got to hold him - he was so little. And I was terrified.

As the night became morning, we were just exhausted. The meds Heather had gotten during the whole experience were hard to get over. So I had lots of time to just stare at Josiah. And then I got to hold him a lot, change his diapers, try unsuccessfully to swaddle him right. I used to hold him and he would just stare at me, trying to figure out what this big goateed dude was all about. And as the excitement of the birth itself wore off, I had lots of time to think - which was not good. As the anthrax scares began to pop up, and everyone tried to figure out what had happened, I got more and more terrified. I found myself in a strange place. Instead of running towards God, for the first time in my life, I ran away from Him. I didn't pray or read the Bible. Every time I tried, my mind would run to the back of the book and I would see people busting down our door and taking my baby away.

I got to be a wreck. I held it together for everyone else, but inside I was in more fear than I ever had been. I loved this little boy, but I could not truly enjoy everything because I would get so worried about his future. I wasn't able to get past that for a couple months. Part of it was getting into a Bible study. Part of it was getting more time with Josiah. He was incredible. When he was born, tons of people told us that there was a reason for him being born under those circumstances. One friend told us that he just brought joy on the darkest of days. And that was what Josiah always has done. (A tradition his sister has kept going) 2001 was one of the hardest years of my life. I was out of work for five months, and the last seven I sold furniture. We were living with Heather's parents, which was very hard for me as a husband and now father. Financially, we were in the worst place we ever experienced together. In addition, it was one of the darkest years in US history.

However, now, when I look back on 2001, all I really see is that it was the year Josiah was born. He erased all the rest of it. I don't look at our time in Jacksonville as this dark blot on my life. I see it as "the place Josiah was born." It is so weird, because I can't think of 9/11 without thinking of Josiah. They are intertwined. But that keeps the memories of that day from being so dark. I know that most people don't have that luxury. They only have the day itself without the hope. I'm thankful that I was able to receive so wonderful after all the pain. And how wonderful he has turned out to be - and I can't wait to see what kind of man he becomes.

Josiah, I love you so much. I hope that your fifth birthday is incredible. You have give us so much over the years - joy, love, fun, happiness - and most of all hope.

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