By Dara Levan
The wind whipped dust and deposited it on my massive mini-van. I wondered for the umpteenth time why I chose white. The seatbelt seemed tighter today, squeezing me as I approached my destination. I shifted gears, put the car in park, and reached for my purple purse. Then I heard an urgent, unfamiliar voice interrupt the music.
It was 9:02 a.m. My stomach tightened. I gripped the wheel. My breathing became shallow and rapid. And I seriously thought I may go into early labor. My clammy, trembling hand dialed his number.
“Have you heard the news?” I wailed. “This. Can’t. Be. True.” Through sobs and gasps, I clutched my belly. I said to my husband, the voice on the other end of the phone, “How can we bring a baby into this sick, twisted world?”
It was 9/11. The first plane had struck the tower. And we lived in the sixth borough: Florida. Yet I swear I heard the screams and smelled the smoke from here.
I felt a kick. Another sign of life growing inside of me as thousands of innocent people lost theirs. It rocked my internal foundation. It demolished my sense of security in our country. My confidence as a soon-to-be first-time mom crumbled with the Twin Towers. I was shaken, scared, and thought I’d be sick.
My baby boy burst into Plantation, Florida on April 4. This robust, roaring newborn decided to make himself known a few days early, all 9 pounds, 13 ounces, and 21 inches of him. Todd arrived via C-section after an insanely intense marathon labor.
He is now a high school senior. Todd was born at a time of global crisis. And now he’s leaving home in the midst of a pandemic. My firstborn is writing his story within the bookends of uncertainty.
Dry, cracked, over-scrubbed hands rest on my stomach in recent days. It isn’t quite as protruded, thankfully, as it was eighteen years ago. I inhale and try to calm my mind. I exhale deeply and attempt to shift from panic to peace. It doesn’t always work.
The beating of my heart is a reminder of when he grew inside me. Disturbing, fragmented dreams disrupt my sleep. Pregnancy isn’t the cause this time. It is grief. It is worry. It is fear. I can no longer protect him.
I keep checking in to see if he’s okay. It’s tough but I try not to suffocate him with my own spinning thoughts. I am gentle and, well, I thought indirect.
Todd finally responded, “Why do you keeping asking me the same thing?” That’s when I realized he’s pivoted and grown. He’s clearly processing and accepting this more swiftly than me. “Yea, it sucks. But it is what it is.” (Todd’s words)
Our 2002 babies have become young adults. They’re supposed to soar to schools this fall. Will Todd leave for college? If so, how can freshman year ever be the same? Will he or any of us return to the lives we once knew?
I have been writing about this for weeks. I haven’t had the courage to share until now. But it’s real, it’s raw, and it’s reality. And I know I’m not alone. You aren’t either.
Let’s stay in touch. We need connection more now than ever. I promise that if you reach out, I will respond. First I’ll wipe the tears that seem, like this bizarre time in which we are living, have no end date. We do have hope. And we have each other.
This freshman class, who went from the womb to a world that changed in an instant, is destined to be a remarkably resilient generation. Their lives began in a world that wept. We emerged from 9/11. We are different. We are forever changed.
Our 2002 babies were born during an unstable, unsettling time. Now they’re grown, flying from the nest, during another crisis in our country. And I feel quite certain the lessons Todd is learning, which can never be taught in school, will shape his future. Todd is part of history. Hats off to my son and the entire class of 2020!
Dara Levan is the founder of Every Soul Has A Story. She is a writer, creator, and connector. Dara is a graduate of Indiana University, where she earned a B.A. in English and minor in Journalism. She earned her M.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders at Nova Southeastern University.
Dara writes weekly blogs and hosts a podcast. Every Soul Has A Story has expanded and now includes Wednesday Wisdom conversations and nature meditation videos. Please visit Dara’s online home at daralevan.com to receive blogs, inspiration, stories, and more.
I live my life with passion and on purpose. My intention is to impact the world with integrity, love, and meaning…one word at a time.