It was slightly more than six weeks after my second child had been born by way of emergency C-section. Sleep-deprived and tired, I had left my two under the age of two at home with a sitter to get out and get some exercise.
Walking by the muted television in the workout facility, I saw out of the corner of my eye a plane fly into a building. A small, private plane, I thought. What I did not know was that it was American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles, a Boeing 767 that had been taken over by five hijackers. The hijackers had deliberately flown the plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center a few minutes before 9:00 in the morning.
A second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, hit the South Tower of the World Trade Center 17 minutes later. Thirty minutes later, the Pentagon was hit by a plane, and after that, a fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.
My two children and I spent most of that day, and the following week, watching the continuous news reports about the events, the ongoing search and rescue operation, and development of the story. Who would deliberately use airplanes full of civilians as weapons to fly into commercial buildings with the clear intent of murdering thousands of innocent people?
The plane crashes were the result of 19 al-Qaida operatives hijacking four planes in a coordinated attack. Deliberate, planned, designed to terrorize a nation. Our nation was stunned, but quickly moved into action, with many people traveling to New York to assist and others volunteering for active duty in the military.
For the next few weeks, as I rocked my baby during the middle of the night, I could hear military jets out of Dobbins Air Reserve Base flying over our home. How would this attack affect my children's safety and their future? What type of nation would they inherit? I wondered, and I worried, as I rocked and rocked.
During this time, a friend asked me to serve as treasurer of Genesis: A New Life, a homeless shelter in Atlanta for newborn babies and their families. Overwhelmed by the day-to-day demands of caring for two young children, and worried about their future, I initially hesitated and planned to turn her down. Then I thought, If I was overwhelmed, what about the mothers of newborn babies who had no home, no support network and nowhere to go?
Yes, I would help. I had to help.